The press serves the governed, not the governors, the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black once wrote. Were he alive and in the Berkshires today, Justice Black would be justifiably alarmed over the contempt some public agencies have toward the public's right to know.

This week, the general counsel and public records officer to the Berkshire district attorney quit after she said Andrea Harrington told her "we are not responding" to The Eagle's request for public records in a politically fraught case. In the realm of public records law, that is simply not an option.

Jeffrey Pyle, a Prince Lobel Tye LLC attorney versed in public records law and First Amendment litigation, called Jeanne Kempthorne's allegations "remarkable" and Harrington's alleged action "highly unusual" and "improper."

"I've never seen a whistleblower within an agency come forward with such an allegation," Pyle told The Eagle.

Sadly, battling public agencies for access to public records is a struggle in the Berkshires and the behavior of too many public officials in withholding such information borders on Trumpian.

Lest anyone think that the newspaper is muckraking for its own sake, journalists work on your behalf to obtain information to which you're entitled. You, too, can request public records and information, but the point here is if it's difficult for a professional news organization to obtain the material, what are the average citizen's chances?

The District Attorney's Office denied wrongdoing and it paid lip service to transparency, but too many of The Eagle's experiences with the office prove otherwise. Nevertheless, the in-house expert, Ms. Kempthorne, a lawyer of 36 years who once sat on the state Ethics Commission, could find no legal reason to justify holding back the information The Eagle sought in the Simon's Rock case.

Understandably, Ms. Harrington is averse to bad publicity. Though this past week's news was of Ms. Harrington's own making, Ms. Kempthorne's departure was the coda to a pattern of evasion the District Attorney's Office has exhibited time and again toward The Eagle and its questions. Indeed, the district attorney chose to avoid answering an Eagle reporter's questions directly on this matter Thursday, opting instead for her taxpayer-paid media spokesman to answer on her behalf via email.

Ms. Harrington's actions show contempt for The Eagle, which did not endorse her candidacy. This behavior is disrespectful to the citizens of Berkshire County, including those who did not support her candidacy, to whom Ms. Harrington owes a duty.

Ms. Kempthorne calls it a "campaign culture" that Ms. Harrington runs on the inside. If that's the case, then the public isn't likely to get access to the truth about decisions, situations, etc., that affect the public but might compromise Ms. Harrington's reelection chances with the public.

"My concern is that what [Ms. Harrington] did was not in the public's interest; it was in her interest," Ms. Kempthorne told The Eagle.

Indeed, it's been a challenge to get Harrington to release records from politically fraught and controversial cases like the Simon's Rock student's now-debunked claim of a racial attack and the Sheffield family murder-suicide last year. Too many questions loom large still about these cases, which rattled and confused the public.

So sensitive to the prospect The Eagle would go public with Ms. Kempthorne's whistleblowing, Ms. Harrington called The Eagle's executive editor on Thursday and asked it not be published. Ms. Kempthorne was "disgruntled," Ms. Harrington said. The editor declined her request.

Recently, the District Attorney's Office asked The Eagle not to file formal records requests because of the legal burden it puts on the process, preferring informal requests. Indeed, the Freedom of Information Act is in place to ensure that the process is recorded, that government officials are accountable for fulfilling such requests.

Ms. Kempthorne moved across Massachusetts to take Ms. Harrington's job offer as general counsel to the district attorney. Despite their feud, Ms. Kempthorne still believes in and respects Ms. Harrington's progressive philosophy toward justice.

But the District Attorney's Office has a serious responsibility to the public it serves and that includes a respect for the public and the press that works on its behalf. It's tragic that the Berkshires has lost a public servant in Ms. Kempthorne, ironically over a disagreement on how to serve the public.

"I actually do think this is the people's business and there might be some repercussions for me," Ms. Kempthorne said. "It's my obligation to get [this work] done right, and the political function is interfering with me doing my job."

Somewhere up there, Justice Black is listening and hoping the tide turns in the public's favor, and soon. As do we.