INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Just when we thought we were finally done with email controversies in Washington, another one seems to be brewing. And this time it involves Vice-President elect Mike Pence.
According to the IndyStar, the issue dates back to 2014 when President Barack Obama announced his executive actions to fix the immigration system.
Those actions included deferring enforcement of immigration laws for parents of children born in the United States and for children who entered the United States before they were 16.
Pence and many other Republicans were unpleased with the orders and joined a lawsuit headed by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. Pence allegedly received the blessing of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to join the lawsuit, and he hired Indianapolis law firm Barnes & Thornburg to join the Texas litigation, the IndyStar reports.
In December 2014, Indianapolis attorney William Groth requested information regarding Pence’s decision to hire outside counsel, claiming Pence was wasting taxpayers’ money.
According to court documents obtained by the IndyStar, Pence handed over the documents to Groth, but there were “substantial” redactions. The governor also allegedly failed to produce a 57-page document from Abbott’s chief of staff Daniel Hodge that was sent to Pence as well as 29 other recipients in various states asking them to join the lawsuit.
“I think joining the lawsuit without the attorney general and hiring that firm was a waste of taxpayer dollars and the people have the right to know how much of their money was spent,” Groth told the IndyStar.
Groth brought the matter to court, and after a yearlong trial, the Superior Court decided it wasn’t a matter for courts to decide – citing an Indiana Supreme Court case decided just days before.”
That ruling was in regards to the case Citizens Action Coalition, et al. v. Indiana House Rep. The 4-1 ruling states that under the Indiana Constitution’s separation of powers clause, legislature’s redactions were nonjusticiable, meaning it’s not for the court to decide.
Groth appealed the court’s decision in June, and the Indiana Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on November 21 at 1 p.m. at the statehouse.
The biggest issue is that if the court sides with Pence, it severely limits the Access to Public Records Act. This means the decision could remove a judicial branch check on executive power and limit a citizen’s rights to know how the government is spending its taxpayers’ money, according to the IndyStar.
“I think governmental transparency is an important concern of anyone who lives in a democracy – the governor cannot put himself above the law,” Groth told the IndyStar.