BY MALIA HILL – As someone famous once didn’t quite say, “Eternal vigilance is the price of making sure that your state employees aren’t chartering helicopters to visit their hairdressers and treating their friends to lobster dinners on the taxpayers’ dime.”
The truth is that no matter what they say, government bureaucrats aren’t the biggest fans of transparency. They abide by transparency laws (when they must) because it isn’t exactly politically wise to say, “I don’t want to tell you,” when asked how you’re spending taxpayer funds or conducting state affairs. But left to itself, the inclination of government agencies is to avoid exposing themselves to criticism. And transparency brings criticism.
That’s why it’s no surprise to see that state governments often try to limit their transparency requirements. In Hawaii, we only just narrowly escaped an effort to close the records on state employee payroll information. And in other states, Governors are trying different methods of avoiding open records requirements–like in Maine, where Governor LePage seems to feel that his business advisory committee shouldn’t be subject to open records laws. Or like Tennessee, where Governor Haslam would like to personally exempt himself from financial disclosure laws rather than publicly disclose his finances.
Fortunately, the Sunlight Foundation is helping in the fight to demand open government. Go here to sign their letter to our nation’s governors demanding that they stop the rollback of transparency laws across the country. Once there are 10,000 signatories to the open letter, they will deliver it to the National Governor’s Association. Please act now to protect transparency projects like our own HawaiiSunshine.org. Because there’s no better way to know just how big our state’s Amazon.com account is.