Vermont AG candidates address Sorrell’s snub of public records law

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell

A lawsuit against Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell over a refusal to deliver public records has prompted different reactions from the two candidates seeking to replace him.

“The public records statute is very simple and straight forward: if you get a request for public records, you have to provide them,” said Deborah Bucknam, a Republican attorney from Walden who is running a campaign to succeed Sorrell.

“There are some exceptions, but they are very limited. … The attorney general didn’t even bother to respond to say somehow that there was an exception or anything. They are the attorney general and they are supposed to follow the law,” she said.

Sorrell is accused of withholding information about an effort by AGs United for Clean Power to investigate ExxonMobil and other groups for their views on global warming.

In March, attorneys general from 15 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands announced a plan to apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to fossil fuel companies. In response, two nonprofit legal centers requested that the Vermont Attorney General’s Office turn over documents from private email accounts that discuss the plan in more detail.

When Sorrell refused to respond, attorneys for the Energy and Environment Legal Institute and Free Market Environmental Law Clinic sued for the records.

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