Courts fine heavily public sector executives who deny release of public documents
The Alliance for Clean Romania (ACR), an initiative led by the Romanian Academic Society (SAR), won a lawsuit against two entities that manage public funds, against their denial to disclose public information. After a series of judgments between SAR, as plaintiff, and the Authority for State Assets Recovery (AVAS) and EximBank – a bank specialized in intermediating packages of financial services for SMEs – the ACR’s right to the information was re-won in court. The two entities, both operating on public money and subject to the Freedom of Information Act (Law 544/2001) denied access to public information regarding problematic contracts they had sealed in the past years. According to the recent court sentences, both heads of these agencies were to receive a fine equivalent to 20% of their salaries for each day of withholding the requested public information. As a consequence, AVAS’director made available the documents within 9 hours from the court’s decision, while EximBank’s director requested the paper necessary for photocopying the documents. We consider this to be a major breakthrough in what represents judicial action for the respect of access to public information and the use of strategic litigation as a method of disclosure in ciil society action.