Open government is good government.
Sunshine Week starts Sunday and continues through Saturday.
Sunshine Week, launched in 2005, is a national celebration of access to public information.
It coincides with the birthday of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution and key advocate for the Bill of Rights.
Federal, state and municipal officials usually say they believe government business should be conducted in public, and the public should have easy access to government records.
The talk sounds good, but, at times, all the talk isn’t put into practice.
In fact, all you need to do is look at the Oklahoma governor’s office. Gov. Mary Fallin says she supports open government. The governor’s office doesn’t reflect those sentiments.
There are 30 records request pending in the governor’s office. Some of those requests were filed in April 2014.
The oldest is a request from Amy Atwood, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity in Oregon. Her request for documents related to legislation about endangered or threatened species was made on April 7. She was notified on April 9 that her request was received. She’s still waiting on the records.
“Looks like we have some following up to do,” Atwood told Oklahoma Watch.
Admittedly, some of the document requests can take a while to complete or require review by members of state’s legal team to determine if some material needs to be redacted.
Fallin spokesman Michale McNutt readily admits some of the delays are purely a manpower shortage.
The governor’s office only has one person – a paralegal – processing the requests. The Open Records Act obviously is a priority for Fallin if only one person is on staff to process requests.
The media is just one group seeking records. Others include an environmental group, a politician, a funeral services provider, the Oklahoma capter of the American Civil Liberties Union and an attorney.
Fallin’s communications director Alex Weintz said approximately 60,000 pages of documents could be released soon, perhaps next week.
The records shutdown in the governor’s office is frustrating and 11-month waits for documents is appalling.
As the state’s most visible public official, the governor’s office should be a shining example to point to during Sunshine Week.
Unfortunately, it’s an example of what not to do.
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