The process of obtaining public records in Vermont is a maze of inconsistent standards and incomprehensible rulings. That's the view of many journalists and advocates who seek such documents.
"In our experience, it seems like some [officials] do not take their responsibility under the law seriously at all," says Jay Diaz, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.
State law requires government officials to make their records available to the public. But over the years, the legislature and the courts have carved out dozens — if not hundreds — of exemptions. Because government entities often interpret and implement the law differently, those requesting records face inconsistent wait times and price tags.
Hilary Niles, a Montpelier-based independent journalist, relies on the Public Records Act to bring important stories to light, but her experience with it has been mixed.
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