Mine foes hit state for withholding papers

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Sponsors of an unsuccessful ballot measure that targeted toxic mine pollution are suing to force Alaska officials to release government records that might answer questions about Gov. Sarah Palin's efforts to nix it.

The group Alaskans For Clean Water asked Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage on Tuesday to order immediate release of documents that the state says it can't fully produce until mid-November.

That extension wouldn't allow access to the records until after the Nov. 4 election. The lawsuit alleges illegal failure to meet required timetables, "for the purposes of delay."

Palin's press secretary Bill McAllister denied any delay tactics. With a deluge of public records requests since Palin became Sen. John McCain's running mate, he said, an extension is justified.

The suit also accuses the state of trying to dissuade requesters with excessive fees.

Alaska officials are charging thousands of dollars for the records, at rates as high as $122 for a state worker's time, and totaling nearly $7,000 just for the initial batch. Some news organizations seeking the same records decided to pull their requests. The state refused to invoke a provision that allows fee waivers in the public interest.

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