EDITORIAL | No good can come from turning a blind eye to public info violations

It’s a weathered old drum, one that most people seem content to ignore — unless things go seriously wrong. Violations of the Open Public Meetings Act are continually flouted by public servants. For some reason, they sometimes believe it is more important to keep their actions secret than to be fully transparent.

  • Wednesday, March 16, 2016 1:40pm
  • Opinion

It’s a weathered old drum, one that most people seem content to ignore — unless things go seriously wrong.

Violations of the Open Public Meetings Act are continually flouted by public servants. For some reason, they sometimes believe it is more important to keep their actions secret than to be fully transparent.

It is, however, nothing more than a blatant violation of the public’s trust and breaking very specific laws protecting the right of citizens to monitor the actions taken by their government representatives.

Island Transit’s board of directors broke the law when it narrowed the field of candidates for a new executive director from 15 to four during a closed-door session March 3.

The intent of the executive session, according to Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, a member of the transit board, was to protect the identity of the candidates seeking the position.

Miller vs. City of Tacoma determined that any straw polls or elimination of candidates out of the public purview is impermissible.

Island Transit’s flagrant violation begs the question: If not our elected and appointed representatives, just who is looking out for the rights of the citizens to monitor the actions taken by their government?

The citizens who pay their hard-earned taxes into Island Transit have every right to observe every single action taken by their representatives on the board.

In this March 3 instance, the transit board determined that protecting the rights of those who foot the bill was less important than protecting the identities of those applying for a key position of trust.

That it’s Island Transit that’s choosing to violate the Open Public Meetings Act is agonizing considering the long history of questionable decisions and spending that went on for years under the leadership of former director Martha Rose.

Meanwhile, just this past state legislative session, we saw a very direct attack on government transparency with a proposed bill to allow government agencies to essentially brush off public records requests as they choose.

Without citizens demanding that their elected representatives be accountable and holding them to the letter of the open meetings and public records laws, we risk descending even deeper into an abyss of government secrecy.

As time and experience has shown us, no good can come of that.

 

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