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JP: Public records should be available to public, media

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MEMBERS of the public, including the media, should have direct access to public records so they don’t need to make an Open Government Act request, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan said.

In an interview on Monday, he said he and the other members of the House leadership decided to make a “unified” response to the inquiries of Kandit News’ Troy Torres because he made a formal Open Government Act or OGA request.

Sablan said nothing and no one should stop any member of the public or the media from getting public information from government agencies and officials, especially elected ones.

Sablan is the author of House Resolution 21-4, which allowed House members to draw down up to $5,000 from their office allocations “to defray the cost of food, lodging, and other incidental expenses related to community events and activities and other expenses incurred by reason of attending to legislative business in any senatorial district and outside the Commonwealth.”

Speaker BJ Attao, center background, presides over a session of the House of Representatives last month.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Torres, in his OGA request, asked for the disbursement receipts of the lawmakers’ expenditures of their $5,000 monthly allowance.

Sablan said not all House members “withdrew” funds from the monthly allowance.

In their letter, Sablan, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, and other members of the House leadership said Torres requested documents that “are not public records,” but the lawmakers welcome him and any member of the media to make an appointment and inspect the public records in their office.

“I don’t understand why they have to make an Open Government Act request when my door is always open to the media for public information they may need,” Sablan said.

He noted that H.R. 21-4 requires each House member to maintain a record of all transactions and corresponding public purpose justifications related to the allowance, so there is guarantee that such information will be provided.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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