Why be open

Published 8:46 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

Good government is just as good as its citizens.

And, one of the most fundamental ways to ensure a good government-from the town hall conference rooms to the halls of Congress-is ensure all the doors are open and the flow of information is accessible to its citizens.

Lately, “transparency” has been the catch phrase-give banks billions of dollars in taxpayer’s money then open the books on how the banks spent it.

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Hold a meeting about questionable punishment against a third-grade student, then air out the complaint.

Selling public property, open the meeting and lay out the specifics.

These are not for the “benefit” of the press, these are for the benefit of the public-you, the one who pays the bills. What you-the one who pays the bills-does with that information is up to you.

The point is that laws for openness need to be adhere to so that citizens have the opportunity to ensure government is doing what it’s suppose to.

Governments, good governments, should welcome that openness.

The three incidents above apply to the citizens of Decatur County-the federal bailout applies to us, but I don’t hold much hope for much information on exactly how our tax dollars have been spent. The epitome of bad government.

The second is the discipline given to the educator for the paddlings at Potter Street Elementary School.

The state law allows eight exceptions to the Open and Public Meetings Law: No. 6 reads “Meetings when discussing or deliberating upon the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal, or periodic evaluation or rating of a public officer or employee but not when receiving evidence or hearing argument on charges filed to determine disciplinary action or dismissal of a public officer or employee. The vote on any matter covered by this paragraph shall be taken in public and minutes of the meeting as provided in this chapter shall be made available.”

Even though the Board of Education took appropriate action, board members should have received the evidence and arguments in open meeting, then deliberate their intended actions in closed session.

As for the selling of public property, the hospital board says it was a mistake and apologized. The only exception to the Open and Public Meetings Law says future acquisition of real estate is excluded.

The intentions of the local officials were good.

But good government only truly flourishes when officials err on the side of openness.