Maine Freedom of Information Act

What is the Maine Freedom of Information Act?

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a statute that grants access to public records and proceedings without infringing on the privacy of individuals or legitimate government interests. This Act ensures governmental transparency and public trust in the government and is essential for the government’s open decision-making. Maine’s FOIA is called the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), and it was enacted in 1959 and then updated in 1976. The FOAA allows interested persons, including non-citizens of the state, access to the state’s public records, as long as these records are not specified as exempted by law. The FOAA defines public records as information in varying formats, including written, printed, or graphic materials, mechanical or electronic data that is either visual or aural. These public records must be in possession of a public official or agency of the state, their political subdivisions, or used for a public or governmental business.

The Maine Open Meeting Law, which describes the process for public processions, is included in the Maine Freedom of Access Act. The Maine Open Meeting Law mandates that public proceedings should be open to attendance, organizers should make records of public proceedings, and audio, video, or other electronic recordings of these events are permitted.

What is Covered Under the Maine Freedom of Information Act?

The Maine Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) grants access to the following public records and proceedings:

  • Any written, printed, graphic, or electronic material (audio, video, or computer files) of government bodies at all levels
  • Proceedings for the Legislature of Maine, legislature committees, and subcommittees
  • Proceedings of all state boards and commissions, Board of Trustees of University of Maine, and all committees and subcommittees
  • Proceedings of the Board of Trustees of the Maine Maritime Academy and all committees and subcommittees
  • Proceedings of the Board of Trustees of the Maine Community College System and committees and subcommittees

What Records are Exempt from the Freedom of Information Act in Maine?

Some specific records exempted from public access under the Maine Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) include:

  • Records designated as confidential by state statute
  • Records that would be against legal discovery if accessed or that is still valid as evidence in civil or criminal trials
  • Legislative papers yet to be signed and distributed publicly according to legislative rules
  • Interoffice or intraoffice communication maintained by a legislator, legislative employee, or legislative agency
  • Information included in communication between an elected official and a constituent if the information is personal in nature and includes medical information, financial or credit information, personal history of constituent or family member
  • Information exchanged between an elected official and constituent if the information is of a personal nature and would be confidential, if under the control of another public official or agency
  • Materials used in the preparation of negotiations by a public employer during the process of collective bargaining with its employers
  • Confidential working papers, records, and office memoranda protected by statute or other law and used by administrative and faculty committees of the Maine Maritime Academy, the University of Maine, and the Maine Community College
  • Records that would be considered confidential in the custody of a state official or agency
  • Materials used for the development of legislation or positions related to insurance or insurance-related services
  • Reports of municipal rescue units, ambulance, and medical records unless law enforcement officers require these records for investigations
  • Juvenile records and municipal fire department reports on the investigations of incidences of juvenile firesetters
  • Personally identifiable information of minors obtained or maintained by a municipality for providing non-compulsory or recreational educational services or programs
  • Records of security plans, procedures, or risk assessments prepared as part of a strategy to prevent terrorist acts
  • Information or records providing information on the architecture, design, access details, or security of information technology infrastructure and information facilitating government operations and ensuring technology continuity and disaster recovery
  • Social security numbers and personal contact information of public employees not required to be public by law
  • Geographic information located on private land that is approved voluntarily by the owner to be used as recreational trails

These records are exempted from public access because they are deemed confidential, might affect government interest, are part of ongoing legal proceedings, or for the protection of the parties such as juveniles. A listing of the records deemed restricted from public access is available on the Statutory Exceptions List.

How Do I File a Maine Freedom of Information Act Request?

The State of Maine does not run a central government office that caters to freedom of information requests. To submit a request for a document or record under the Maine Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), a requester has to determine the public body or agency likely to maintain the record. Requesters can make their requests to the Freedom of Access contact for that public body or agency. Note that requests do not always require forms and do not have to be in writing, even though most governmental organizations ask requesters for written requests for record-keeping. To facilitate a prompt response to a freedom of information request, it is essential to identify the particular record or document specifically.

To request for Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) requests from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAF), requesters can contact the FOAA contact for the agency and make a request via email or by phone at (207) 624-7800. The Department of Administrative and Financial Resources office is at:

Burton M. Cross Building
111 Sewall Street
Third Floor
Augusta, ME 04330

Further information is available on the Department of Administrative and Financial Service website.

Similarly, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides records in response to the FOAA requests. The DEP has many files, data, reports, and Google Earth maps online so interested parties can publicly access them. For records relating to specific DEP programs or projects, requesters are advised to start with the staff directory to find DEP staff tasked with maintaining the records and making requests. Requesters can call (207) 287-7843 to schedule appointments to review files in the DEP file room in Augusta. Requesters unable to find the required information can contact the DEP’s FOAA Request Coordinator by phone at (207) 480-0175 to file a formal Freedom of Access request. The DEP office is located at:

Maine Department of Environmental Protection:
17 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0017

Requesters can review files at the DEP file room by appointment. Additional information is available on the DEP website.

What is the Cost of a Freedom of Information Act Request in Maine?

The submission of a Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request in Maine does not attract an initial fee, and Section § 408-A(8)(D) of the Maine Statutes disallows agencies from charging for record inspection. Therefore, interested parties can inspect public records during office hours at no cost. Agencies can charge for access to records only if these involve copying, conversion, or compilation. However, agencies are permitted to charge a reasonable fee for copying records, such as no more than 10 cents per letter size black and white copy. Maine agencies or their representatives can charge for the search, retrieval, and compiling of requested records after the first 2 hours of staff time, but at no more than $25 per hour. These agencies can also charge for converting electronically stored records into formats suitable for inspection or copying.

A Maine public agency is required to inform a requester of the estimate up front if the total cost is greater than $30. If the estimated cost is greater than $100, an official may ask the requester to pay all or a part upfront. The fee to access a public record may be waived in part or in total if the requester cannot afford to pay, or if the record is in the public interest.

How Long Does it Take to Respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request in Maine?

Per Section § 408-A(3) of the Maine Statutes, government agencies are required to acknowledge the receipt of Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) requests within five days of receiving them. Subsequently, these agencies are required to notify requesters in good faith of estimates of the time by which they would fulfill the requests. The complexity of a request and the volume of material requested can affect the time taken to fulfill the request and the cost. For example, a request to the State Department of Environmental Protection for all records of landfills is wide-ranging and could lead to a large volume of records at a high cost. The State Department of Environmental Protection may need clarification for such a request which can further add to the time taken to fulfill the request. Alternatively, restricting the request to a particular area can aid its clarity and reduce the volume of records the agency needs to provide.

Section § 408-A(4) of the Maine Statutes mandates an agency to provide a written denial or statement of a record within five days of receiving a FOAA request. Not responding within five days is considered a failure to provide access to the requested record. On the other hand, the request might have been denied by the agency with custody of the records, within the statutorily required five days. This requester can appeal this failure or denial within 30 calendar days. The requester can appeal by filing a court case at a Maine Superior Court with jurisdiction over the requester’s residence or the agency’s principal office.