The city of Billings, Montana, has hauled the local newspaper into court, because the Billings Gazette had the gumption to ask for public records. The Gazette is a scrappy paper that asks for data three times a week. This time, it wanted data that could show public employees wasting public money at the dump, according to the report last week by Courthouse News Service.

Instead of giving up the information, Billings decided to waste more public money suing the Gazette to protect those employees' privacy. So far, the Yellowstone County judge sounds dubious about the city's arguments, the Gazette reported. The Gazette opined last week: "The city is using taxpayer money to frighten citizens and the media from asking questions that it would rather not answer."

The city's maneuver reminds me of what the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association did when faced with a Star Tribune data request in early 2013. After the MJUA rejected our request, the association filed a lawsuit against us. The case has made its way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments Jan. 5.