Judge rules state must comply with National Guard records request

John McKay argued the case on behalf of Alaska Public Media and ADN.
John McKay argued the case on behalf of Alaska Public Media and ADN.

An Alaska Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that the governor’s office must start providing documents about the National Guard scandal to Alaska Public Media and Alaska Dispatch News.  The State has until noon Friday to hand over any related public records they have already identified and cleared and a privilege log that explains why they cannot provide other documents.

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Judge Gregory Miller said that the state had violated its own regulations and statues by waiting until September to reply to the records requests submitted in May and June. When the state did finally reply, they did not provide either documents or a privilege log.

Attorney John McKay argued the case on behalf of the news organizations. He says the judge acted reasonably by requiring the release of documents.

“The judge’s order says if there is something that’s disclosable, do it. And if it’s not disclosable, provide a privilege log like the law requires. Neither of which they’ve been doing and both of which they agreed to do,” McKay said.

The news organizations sued the state in the beginning of October and soon after came to an agreement with the Department of Law. The state said they would start producing the documents as soon as possible and provide them on a rolling basis. They did not.

Assistant Attorney General Libby Bakalar argued the case on behalf of the State. She said that the delay was due to the privilege of the executive branch to review all of the documents and see if releasing them would violate anyone’s rights.

The governor’s office was given 717 pages of documents cleared by the Department of Law on October 21, none of which have yet been logged or released. Bakalar said the governor’s office is working on many issues.

Judge Miller asked Bakalar at least four times how much time the governor’s office needed to complete the request and was never given a straight answer.

The state could still appeal the judge’s order to the state’s Supreme Court.

After being told innumerable times that maybe she asked too many questions, Anne Hillman decided to pursue a career in journalism. She's reported from around Alaska since 2007 and briefly worked as a community radio journalism trainer in rural South Sudan.
ahillman (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8447  |  About Anne

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