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MARION COUNTY, Ind. — A Superior Court Judge has ordered the Governor’s office to release emails requested by the Citizen’s Action Coalition of Indiana.

Governor Holcomb’s office now has 30 days to turn over the requested documents to the CAC of Indiana. Holcomb’s press secretary, Rachel Hoffmeyer, told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday that the governor’s office “values transparent government and will follow the law.” She said Holcomb’s office has offered to work with the coalition in an effort to narrow its request for records.

“The ruling in CAC’s public records suit is a resounding reaffirmation of the important policy goals embodied in Indiana’s governmental transparency laws,” said the CAC of Indiana’s lawyer William Groth. “It also reaffirms that the burden of proof for delaying or denying access must always remain on the government rather than on the person seeking disclosure.”

In late 2016, when now Vice-President Mike Pence was still Governor of Indiana, Pence and then President-elect Donald Trump had email correspondence between November 14 and November 29 of 2016, presumably about an upcoming jobs announcement at Carrier in Indianapolis. 

On January 3, 2017, with only a week left on Pence’s term as Governor, the Pence Administration responded to the public records request and said they would “try to produce all records as quickly and completely as possible.”

On January 9, 2017, Governor Eric Holcomb was sworn into office as Governor while Pence left for Washington to assume his role as Vice President. In that time court documents say over 50 public records requests had been made related to Pence’s private and formal email accounts.

The CAC of Indiana put in several inquiries as to the status of their records request in the months that followed. In April of 2017, court documents say the Governor’s office asked for “clarification” on their request. The CAC of Indiana refused to give clarification saying the request was reasonable enough as it stood.

The state still did not provide the CAC of Indiana with the documents they requested and other inquiries on the status of their request went unanswered. Soon after, the watch dog group sued the state of Indiana. The state argued they could not provide the emails because the CAC refused to give them the proper clarification needed on what specifically they were looking for.

Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch denied that argument calling the CAC’s initial request “reasonably particular.” 

“While the Court understands that Washburn did not identify specific email addresses of senders and recipients,” said Welch. “The Court believes that should not be a requirement in all cases, especially when the subject matter is so narrow that the public agency should know exactly where to search for the requested records.”

Welch also said the state “acted with undue delay” in response to the CAC of Indiana’s request “by failing to provide updates on the status of the Plaintiffs’ request” under the Access to Public Records Act “but not for failing to produce the documents requested under APRA.”

(PHOTO: Statehouse.Thinkstock.lenzjona)