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MPUC Apologizes for $36,000 Mistake 

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has said it’s sorry for the “confusion and misinformation” that was given out in regards to a public records request. In April, Naomi Schalit, a senior writer for the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting submitted a request to see e-mails dating from 2005-2008 of the commission’s former chairman, Kurt Adams. The request was sent to the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) for further review to find out how the e-mails may be retrieved. Then Chief Information Officer Richard Thompson said the request would result in $36,239 of expenses and that the Office of Information and Technology was not prepared to waive such a high expense and place it on the taxpayers. Wanting an answer as to why the public information was coming in at such a high price tag TV5 News also requested the same records the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting wanted from the MPUC. This week, current MPUC chairman sent a letter to TV5 News, which said, “We have now reviewed Kurt Adams’ e-mail correspondence from 2005-2008. This took 16 hours at a cost of $10 per hour. Because of the history of this issue we are not including a bill for any PUC staff time spend searching the archive OIT has now provided.” Chairman Jack Cashman also apologized on behalf of the MPUC for the “confusion and misinformation that was disseminated following the original request on April 23, 2010,”. According to Cashman the original $36,000 estimate to find the e-mails from the state’s storage system was done under the direction of the former state chief information officer. The TV5 News request resulted in a second letter from OIT and a newly appointed state chief information officer who wrote, “In re-tracing the steps that should have been taken, we discovered (on September 1) that the step of looking on the file server had been missed. This was a critical error on our part.” We’re told the 2005-2008 emails that were originally requested are being reviewed by Schalit. TV5 News received the public records Tuesday.