State Government

Prog lawmaker refuses Public Records request, claims ‘legislative privilege’

Rep. Brian Cina won’t turn over two documents related to Jan. 4 Burlington policing comments

By Guy Page

A Burlington legislator is arguing a novel ‘legislative privilege’ defense to withhold two documents sought by a former city employee using the Public Records Act. 

Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington), moved June 8 to dismiss former assistant Director of Public Works Patrick Cashman’s civil suit claiming Cina violated the Public Records Act when he improperly withheld two documents. The documents concern Cina’s comments at a Jan. 4 City Council meeting opposing Mayor Miro Weinberger’s veto of ‘community-controlled policing’ approved by the council. 

According to Cina’s motion, four days after the Jan. 4 meeting Cashman filed a Public Records request for all communications referencing the Jan. 4 comments. Cina produced a number of documents but withheld two, asserting ‘legislative privilege.’ 

Cina’s defense acknowledges that applying ‘legislative privilege’ in the same context as ‘executive privilege’ is an uncommon legal argument: 

“The records withheld here are subject to legislative privilege. While the issue is a novel one for Vermont courts, there is every indication that legislative privilege applies to Vermont legislators at least to the same extent that it applies to Members of Congress. Vermont’s Constitution Chapter I, Article 14 is closely related by text and history to the U.S. Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause. All the same ethical, prudential, doctrinal, and structural considerations apply.”

The two documents could shed  light on the role played by Cina – a prominent Progressive and sponsor of dozens of bills – in ‘defund the police’ legislation and other bills addressing  ‘systemic racial bias’ in the criminal justice system. 

Also, Vermonters who see a lack of transparency and accountability in Vermont’s Progressive/Democratic supermajority Legislature may be concerned if the court accepts Cina’s contention that the broad Congressional and Executive privileges found in the U.S. Constitution by the federal branches of government also apply to the Vermont Legislature. 

Legislators do have ‘general immunity’ from lawsuits for their speech, debates, and voting records. However, their official communications – such as e-mails from or other official documents – are generally considered disclosable under the state’s Public Records Act. Cina’s motion would appear to seek to restrict public access to at least some of these official communications. 

Categories: State Government

12 replies »

  1. To claim so-called “legislative privilege” – a highly questionable privilege on its face – is itself irrefutable proof this deviant is trying to hide something.

  2. What’s the point of the public electing govt. officials if they refuse to make public their actions supposedly in representation thereof?…Time to do away with silly legislative practices that protect the politician from the tax-payer and allowing the taxpayer to see clearly their tax-dollars at work or not as the case may be.

  3. remember when elected officials used to be called public servants? Now they service the public like a bull services a cow…

  4. That Cina had a role in the frenzy to “defund the police” in Burlington, there is no doubt. To withhold the documents furthers speculation as to his role. The effects of his actions are clear, as evidenced by increase in violent crime in Burlington. Cina is culpable and complicit in creating the current lack of public safety in Burlington, ask the bystander grazed by a bullet last weekend what their opinion is… This is what a vocal minority wanted, they got it. For those Burlington residents and voters that want different outcomes, they are forced to wait until election time, then rally behind candidates that can actually govern, instead of this current crop of petulant children.
    Burlington was a good town, 20 years and more ago- but continual progressive/socialist rule is fast turning Burlington into a shambles.

  5. Beanie Sander’s election as Mayor signaled the end for Burlington, and the beginning of the end for responsible democratic policies that actually worked, made sense, and were affordable for the rest of the state. Now with all the Beanie wannabes pushing all of the socialist “what’s your’s is mine, it takes a village, and free, free, free,” crap we’re all headed to hell in a hand basket, until the lefty fruitcakes run out of our money.

  6. He is taking a completely specious approach here.

    1) withholding documents and inventing the excuse to withhold them out of whole cloth screams that he’s hiding something.

    2) Executive privilege, like this supposed legislative privilege, doesn’t apply to all things. Do these documents have anything to do with legislation? Do they have anything to do with banking and financial matters, or issues of other import to the state that could affect the livelihood or safety of any Vermonter that wouldn’t be able to be preserved by redaction? I’m going to hazard a very firm “No” on this one.

    This isn’t a slippery slope. It’s not even a slippery slight elevation.

    This is just good old fashioned evasion and Vermonter’s should demand accountability.

  7. Legislators always believe they are privileged—“you all do as I say, not as I do”. especially progressives. He is looking for another way to hide the truth.

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