State Agency Stonewalls Seven Days

february 28, 2008  11:50 am
While working on a story on the growth of Vermont's bottled water industry, reporter Mike Ives arranged an interview with a hydrogeologist from the state's Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). But when it came time to conduct the interview, Ives was referred instead to Sabina Haskell, ANR's communications director, who eventually told him, "I won't be able to line up anyone to talk to you." In the meantime, she'd also circulated an internal memo directing ANR employees not to speak with Seven Days unless clearing it with her. "Twice since I've been here," Haskell says as justification, "we've made ourselves readily available and were told that interviews were going to go one way and the story turned out completely differently." The dispute "spilled over to the Vermont Legislature" this week, according to the Rutland Herald. During hearings on two open government bills, the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee brought up the memo "as an example of how difficult it sometimes is to get agency experts to speak to legislative committees."