The Burlington Free Press reported last week that “Vermont’s commerce secretary has released the resignation letter for Gene Fullam, the former director of the state’s EB-5 investment program after concluding the letter was improperly withheld from the public.”
The story goes like this. Fullam abrubtly resigned “with no warning and no explanation,” on July 20 after about a year on the high-profile job. He informed his employers of his decision via short, 1.5-line email. Commerce Secretary Pat Moulton refused to release the email, telling the Free Press “It is a personnel matter, which generally are protected matters.”
The Free Press, as daily newspapers are wont to do, filed a public records request for documents connected to Fullam’s resignation. Moulton’s office was supposed to respond within three days but instead took 15. As a bizarre olive branch to make amends for her illegal foot-dragging, Moulton offered the Free Press 30-percent off the $147 fee she wanted to charge to produce the records.
Finally… she forked over 200 pages of emails. Fullam’s 1.5-line email was not among them. Apparently state lawyers told Moulton that Fullam’s email was “personal,” and therefore exempt from public disclosure.
To which Free Press attorney Bob Hemley astutely retorted, “Personal documents are exempt, but being stuck in a personnel file doesn’t make it a personal document.”
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