RICHMOND, DEC. 15 -- Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's office has appealed a judge's decision opening the telephone bills of the governor's office to public inspection.
In an appeal filed with the Virginia Supreme Court on Friday, Wilder (D) argued that the governor should be permitted to communicate with other people in confidence.
He said forcing the governor to disclose long-distance telephone records is irrational because he does not have to disclose his written correspondence.
Telephone records are working papers or memorandums and therefore are exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act, the appeal argues.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge James B. Wilkinson ordered on Nov. 15 that the records be opened to the public.
The order resulted from a lawsuit filed by the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, which had been denied access to the governor's phone bills that are paid with public funds.
Before June, Wilder's office shared the bills with the public. Since then, the office has disclosed only the amount paid for long-distance telephone service, not the cost or duration of each call or the numbers and locations dialed.
The judge's order was not to go into effect for 30 days, said Alexander Wellford, attorney for the Daily Progress. The order remains on hold until the Virginia Supreme Court rules on the appeal, he said.
The newspaper's attorneys have 21 days to respond to arguments by Wilder's office, Wellford said.
Wellford said the appeal disputes a 1976 attorney general's opinion that granted public access to the itemized telephone bills of the General Assembly.
Wilder believes that opinion is incorrect as applied to his office, according to the appeal.
Bert Rohrer, spokesman for state Attorney General Mary Sue Terry (D), would not discuss the appeal.