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Open Govt. Backers Knock Redacted Email In Report

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Open government advocates are criticizing blacked-out emails from the Maryland attorney general’s office in a state health department report on the destruction of lead poisoning records.

An assistant attorney general emailed a supervisor saying a supporter of Attorney General Doug Gansler’s gubernatorial aspirations was upset at the destruction. The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that it obtained the redacted email and was able to restore the text.

The inspector general’s report found blood test records of children with lead poisoning were being destroyed even though they were being sought by the children’s attorneys through court subpoenas or public information requests. The redacted portions were deemed “attorney work product” under the Maryland Public Information Act, said Wendy Kronmiller, chief of staff to Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Washington Attorney Charles Tobin, who has represented The Sun, said that exemption should only protect thoughts on legal strategy, not politics.

“When it comes to government lawyers and public records law, the work product exemption should be construed narrowly,” Tobin said in an email to the newspaper.

Susan Wichmann, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the report raises questions about whether government is working for the people.

“People need to have faith the government is doing the people’s business and that it’s not being done at the behest of special political interests,” Wichmann said. “It raises questions in people’s minds when they hear things like this.”

Gansler said he does not know the attorney who described himself as a political supporter nor the attorney on his staff who sent the email. Gansler said the attorney on his staff acted properly to preserve the records. He said people routinely claim to have connections to him, but that doesn’t influence his staff.

“Their job is to adjudicate the facts of each case based on the facts of the particular case and the law that applies to the case,” Gansler said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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