Last week was Sunshine Week, created by the American Society of News Editors to mark the importance of open government and transparency.
And as recent news reports reveal, there’s much work to be done.
While Nevada has relatively strong laws regarding public records and open meetings, members of the Legislature have exempted themselves from the requirements. The Review-Journal’s Colton Lochhead reported Wednesday that they “have no intention of opening their records to the Nevada people.”
A proposal from state Sen. Tick Segerblom to remove the shroud of secrecy from certain legislative communications was nixed thanks to an opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau finding that the Legislature is not a “government entity.” Figure that one out. Just more evidence that LCB attorneys will tell lawmakers want they want to hear.
The ACLU has vowed to push the issue further. Good. While some documents and records may indeed be part of the deliberative process, the Legislature’s default setting of clouds and fog is an affront to good government and the taxpayers.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported last week that the previous administration’s vow to be the most open in history was a complete crock. The Obama White House in its final year “spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs defending its refusal to turn over federal records under the Freedom of Information Act,” the wire service found.
In addition, the government later acknowledged in more than one-third of those cases that it had been wrong to stonewall the records request.
Politicians and government workers typically pay lip service to the importance of openness and accountability. Too often, though, their deeds tell a different tale. Eternal vigilance and glaring flashlights are essential to the long-term health of democracy.