Judge will review records of Glendening to decide what to release to paper Washington Post seeks telephone documents

July 09, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is entitled to "some privacy" and confidentiality in conducting state business and may shield certain telephone, calendar and scheduling records from public scrutiny, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge has ruled.

But, Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth wrote in an opinion filed yesterday, the governor does not have a blanket executive privilege.

He ordered the governor's office to turn over records it believes are privileged, with justification, for him to review in private. Then the judge will decide what, if anything, the governor's office must give The Washington Post in its legal battle for access to six months of his 1996 telephone, schedule and calendar records.

Documents that the governor does not claim are privileged should be disclosed to the Post "within a reasonable time," Rushworth wrote.

"The governor is pleased with the opinion, and I am pleased that the court has recognized that there are certain circumstances in which a governor needs to deal with matters of state confidentially," said Andrea Leahy-Fucheck, Glendening's legal counsel.

The Post was disappointed with a ruling that leaned toward the governor and gave the paper limited hope for obtaining the records. But newspaper attorney Karen M. Kramer noted that this was not Rushworth's final ruling on releasing the documents. Nevertheless, she said, "We do think that the law does require disclosure."

Glendening strenuously fought releasing all documents. His office cited executive privilege -- an issue Maryland's top court has not addressed -- and later contended the governor's life could be at risk.

Rushworth did not address the security claim, but wrote that the governor needs confidentiality to discuss economic, budget and other policy matters.

"This court does not believe the General Assembly intended the [Public Information Act] to require the governor to negotiate on behalf of the state without the benefit of at least some privacy. The governor should not be required to conduct the business of this state in a public forum," Rushworth wrote.

For more than a year, The Post had been seeking under the Maryland Public Information Act appointment and telephone records of Glendening and three top officials.

It filed suit on Dec. 4, 1997 saying it wanted to examine "issues of access to the governor's office and campaign financing."

The governor's office voluntarily released some records in what Kramer called an effort to make the case moot.

"This is the very kind of thing the public has a very strong interest in, how the governor uses his office for fund raising and political activities," Kramer said.

Rushworth wrote that records he expects to keep privileged are those that are "wholly of a deliberative and pre-decisional nature," those that are factual but made with the understanding of confidentiality, investigative facts blended with opinions and advice, and anything else the governor can prove would "impinge on the deliberative process."

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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