by Max Brantley
Secretary of State Mark Martin ignored the clear dictate of the law in hiring outside counsel for his office and such arrogance diminishes public trust in government.
Martin's excuse is that, well, he'd done it before.
Yes. And he could have done it again. But the law is clear: he had to seek permission from the attorney general's office to sidestep the statute that requires representation of his office by the a.g. He didn't.
Martin also conflates the statutory authority given some agencies, but NOT his office, to engage outside counsel in certain circumstances.
But back to the beginning:
This ruling arose from more lawbreaking. A Freedom of Information Act request was submitted for information held by Martin's public office. He didn't supply it. The lawsuit forced production of some of the material. He has still resisted the full FOI request and hired outside counsel, a Republican lawyer, at $200 an hour to fight public accountability. His original failure to provide material was a violation of the FOI law. His continuing resistance to supply that information similarly flouts the law. Matt Campbell, who brought the suit, deserves attorney fees as well as the information.
Why is there a partisan consideration, by the way, in hiring counsel on an FOI matter? Unless Mark Martin is trying to hide something and thinks only a political ally will give him — if not the public — the kind of representation he needs.
The public deserves better than Mark Martin.