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DPHHS & Govenor being Sued

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, [email protected]

DPHHS and Governor sued for blocking release of public records once again

[Helena, Montana] Governor Greg Gianforte is again facing legal action for refusing

to release public records.

On Tuesday, October 17, 2023, Upper Seven Law sued Governor Gianforte and

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director

Charlie Brereton for refusing to provide public records requested pursuant to the

Montana Constitution's right to know. The Governor and DPHHS asserted

“executive privilege”—which courts have soundly rejected—and categorically denied

Upper Seven's public information request.

As recently as December 2022, a Helena court rebuffed the Governor's attempt to

hide public documents using the same unrecognized privilege. In O'Neill v. Gianforte,

the court held that executive privilege is “repugnant to the Montana Constitution's

right to know.”

Tuesday's lawsuit details allegations that the Governor and DPHHS are concealing

information about how the State is changing its approach to SF-424 forms, which

accompany federal grant applications and require applicants to certify compliance

with federal antidiscrimination law. Montana state agencies must complete SF-424

forms when applying for federal funding related to, among other things, maternal

and child health services, preschool development, homelessness, and community

development.

“In Montana, the days of policymaking in the dark and behind closed doors are

long gone,” said Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, Upper Seven's Executive Director.

“Neither the Governor's Office nor DPHHS can explain their refusal to provide

copies of the guidance they issued to employees, apparently instructing them to

reserve the right to discriminate against Montanans when distributing federal

funds. But the Montana Constitution requires transparency. And the Governor

must obey the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.”

A copy of the filed complaint accompanies this press release.

 

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