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What Does Corey Stapleton Have To Hide? Why is He Ignoring Public Records Requests?

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Sixty days ago, I sent a public records request to Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, his chief of staff, and to the person listed as his Communications Director.

This was my request on May 10:

I am writing to request the opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of all public records, including e-mail correspondence, written memos, and text messages sent or received by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, Christi Jacobsen and/or Laura Nelson related to Don Pogreba’s e-mailed request for public records sent on these dates:

  • 4/18/18
  • 4/25/18
  • 5/4/18
  • 5/9/18

I request that the information be provided electronically.  If there will be any fees for these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $100. I request a waiver of fees, though, as the information I am requesting is not for commercial purpose.

I would appreciate an acknowledgment that your office has received this request.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.

If that seems a bit confusing, I am requesting all public records related to my earlier public records request. As you might recall, the Secretary of State’s office filed a copyright claim against me for posting a video it produced, and I was curious just how that decision was reached. Even though sources confirmed that text messages were exchanged about the matter, I was told that there were no public records regarding the decision.

The Secretary’s office is claiming that a decision to threaten a constituent and affirm under the threat of perjury that a state-produced video should be taken down was done without an e-mail, text, or memo being exchanged, a claim dubious on its face and even more unbelievable when sources confirm such communication took place.

Thus, my second request, asking for all communication about my public records request and the complete silence from the Secretary of State’s office. I followed up that request on June 1 and June 19 but still have not received a response nor even acknowledgment that the request was received. Today I will send another reminder.

It’s evident that Mr. Stapleton is almost entirely incompetent at his job as the debacle over his specious claims about voter fraud and his decision to produce a video telling Montanans to invalidate their votes demonstrate. It’s evident that he has improperly politicized his office as state expenditures on self-promoting videos, e-mail blasts filled with his political agenda, and a state website for his office that looks like a Stapleton fan site clearly show. It’s evident that he’s a petit tyrant as his abuse of staffers, the mass defection from his office, and the abuse of county elections officers make clear.

It’s also evident, though, that although Stapleton is disinterested in or incapable of doing the job he was elected to do, he still needs to follow the law and Montana’s constitution, which afford Montanans the right to examine the workings of their government officials.

Mr. Stapleton and the few remaining loyalists who haven’t fled his mismanagement and abuse might think that my public records requests are designed to embarrass him, but that simply isn’t the case: he’s made a mockery of himself and his office, and it’s time for Mr. Stapleton to just come clean, no matter how many staffers he tells to wipe their electronic devices.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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