December 16, 2018

Media and IFW Deflecting Attention Away From More Serious Problems with FOAA

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As anyone involved in the corruption of governments, politics and media in general should easily recognize, focusing on one issue to deflect attention away from a more serious issue, is a common event. Such may be the case in Maine where officials of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), the Maine Warden Service (MWS), the newspaper conglomerate which involves the Portland Press Herald (PPH), and media in general, appear to be focusing on the accuracy of one newspaper investigation of a sting operation that took place and concluded a couple of years ago.

The undercover operation, which is the topic of great discussion after the PPH released its own investigation, has concluded in the Courts. Disputing what actually took place generally becomes a practice in futility unless serious enough evidence can be uncovered that might warrant a revisiting of the case. Perhaps that was the intent of the PPH reporter.

Arguing the accuracy of the investigation between PPH and the MWS, draws attention away from what I see as a far more serious problem. Today’s media deluge still focuses on the “he-said-he-said” between PPH and MWS/IFW.

After the MWS released an official presser yesterday in response to PPH’s investigation, the Maine Governor’s Office also weighed in on the event by focusing sharply on whose information about the undercover operation was accurate – or perhaps more precisely, who lied. By taking the opportunity to thoroughly trash Maine Media as being biased, Governor LePage doesn’t mince words in personally attacking Colin Woodard, the author of the PPH investigative piece. “Let’s be perfectly clear: Colin Woodard is not a journalist; he is an activist and a novelist who never lets the facts get in the way of his fictionalized stories.”

The Bangor Daily News offers an article that only seems interested in keeping it’s focus on whether the facts of the case are accurate by MWS/IFW reports or those of the PPH.

The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinal online media, offers a blow by blow rebuttal to claims made by the MWS in their official response to the PPH investigation. What is missing from all of these reports, with the slight exception found in this report, involves the charade that is taking place over the PPH’s attempts to access email documents from IFW/MWS.

The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinal rebuttal responds specifically to claims made by the MWS that they had sent PPH 232 documents. “Only 35 emails have been released in response to the Press Herald’s public records request for communications with “North Woods, Law,” despite more than six months of effort.” The author of this piece provides MWS/IFW some wiggle room out of its statement about releasing 232 documents by saying: “In a separate request for the warden service’s policy for undercover investigations, the newspaper received a single, highly redacted, 16-page document with 15 pages mostly blacked out. The wardens may be conflating the Press Herald request with documents produced for the Kennebec Journal in 2015 in connection with a separate August 2014 public records request. Those were not the documents that the Press Herald requested.”

Additionally, the MWS’ official response claims that they were, “compliant with Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.” The PPH says they were not and offers instead what they claim is a complete publication of all emails exchanged between PPH, the MWS, IFW, Maine Attorney Generals Office, and other lawyers, seeking information about the undercover case and how Engel Entertainment, a video production service that produces the television show North Woods Law, was involved.

If we leave behind the undercover operation that took place in Allagash, Maine, and forget about whether the undercover warden service officer acted properly and within the law and policies of the IFW/MWS, and stop arguing about it, and then focus on the farce and deliberate stonewalling by IFW/MWS in fulfilling their obligation to provide documents through FOAA, we may have a condition worth getting worked up over. However, I don’t think anybody in government wants any attention brought to this event.

I have read every single email provided by the PPH in their attempt at getting documents. I see this as nothing more than a deliberate attempt to stonewall. The reasons for such stonewalling is unclear at this time. Perhaps it is nothing more than some perverted sense of retribution toward the PPH. If, as is exemplified by Governor Paul LePage’s disdain toward Maine Media, this same feeling of contempt and disrespect is prevalent throughout his administration, the actions of IFW/MWS can be explained, although not justifiably. At the least, to those who have taken the time to read and understand, it comes across as hiding evidence. And, when people suspect that, then they want to know what is there to hide?

I came to the conclusion, after reading all the emails, that collectively, not that many people can be so stupid. Third Graders could have worked this out in short order.

I think one has to go back to the beginning and examine the FOAA request from the PPH to IFW/MWS. In that request, PPH asked specifically for all email exchanges, for a specified date range of one year, and provided the search term of “@engelentertainment.com” – this being the domain name used by Engel Entertainment as part of their email address. PPH asked that this search be refined to exchanges involving events of the undercover operation in “Aroostook” County, where the sting took place.

Throughout the entire email exchange, it is easily clear that any use of the term “@engelentertainment.com” was omitted from any emails originating from the IFW, MWS, AGs office and representatives. It was so obvious to me, that this was beyond incompetence. It was deliberate avoidance of addressing the real issue.

Several times in the emails, Colin Woodard of the PPH, takes the time to explain to IFW/MWS/AG that he was requesting, from the onset, emails involving Engel Entertainment, and yet, that subject was ignored – repeatedly.

At best IFW/MWS attempted to turn the event back on PPH saying that if they wanted emails from “@engelentertainment.com” it would qualify as a separate request, involving more money and time to get the job done. In attempting to point out to IFW/MWS/AG officials that that search term was included in the original FOAA request, it fell on deaf ears. I could not see how Mr. Woodard could have been more clear on what he wanted.

While these actions come as no surprise to me – I’ve been witness to these government corruption actions before and experienced them first hand – the intent of the FOAA law, or at least what the American people were told, should, in no way, be representative of this action of government or any other government. Unfortunately, it is and short of some highly skilled lawyers and an unending supply of money, there is little hope that when real information is needed, anyone will ever get it. Is this not just a reflection of what we see on a continual basis in Washington? How has that FOAA been working out in getting to the bottom of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal? And how many lawyers and how much money is involved.

Government knows how to take care of government. They know that PPH isn’t going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get information that government intends not to release. And so, the game is played.

BUT, DON’T GO LOOK!

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