Washington Post Coverage
Editorial, America’s states are flunking the ethics test, Washington Post, November 11, 2015
Comment on Washington Post’s Coverage
The Center for Public Integrity report makes a valuable contribution to the good governance debate at a state level. But as is often the case with the researchers who write such ambitious reports, they often don’t have a good sense as to how good government laws work in practice. This is certainly the case with the Maryland report touting the revisions to Maryland’s Public Information Act. Those revisions are far less impressive than the Center for Public Integrity thinks based on reading the PR for them. It’s hard to believe, for example, that the Maryland Association of Counties was given a seat and probably effective veto power on the new Compliance Board. There is no entity in Maryland that has been a more effective and unaccountable opponent to open government than the Maryland Association of Counties. This is a classic case, if there ever was one, of placing the foxes in charge of the chicken coop. For many unsophisticated Public Information Act requesters who believe the hype, both the Compliance Board and Ombudsman will merely serve to waste their time. A much better approach would have been to focus on putting public documents online so requesters seeking controversial documents and unable to afford litigation wouldn’t have to go through the hellish process the loophole ridden Public Information Act facilitates–e.g., on behalf of Maryland Association of County members.
Baltimore Sun Coverage
Cox, Erin, Government transparency job left vacant in Maryland, Baltimore Sun, November 14, 2015.
Comment on Baltimore Sun Coverage
The Compliance Board has been grossly oversold as a solution to Maryland’s Public Information Act woes, especially for the type of email example used in this article. For example, think about the Clinton email scandal and whether either the Compliance Board or Ombudsman would have helped alleviate the problem. Then recognize that such abuses are far worse in Maryland (e.g., see “The Clinton email scandal: a double standard?” Baltimore Sun, April 1, 2015). As for the Compliance Board, the Maryland Association of Counties was given a seat and probably effective veto power on the new Compliance Board. There is no entity in Maryland that has been a more effective and unaccountable open government opponent than the Maryland Association of Counties. The Compliance Board is a classic case, if ever there was one, of placing the foxes in charge of the chicken coop. For many unsophisticated Public Information Act requesters who believe the hype, both the Compliance Board and Ombudsman will merely serve to waste their time: justice delayed; justice denied. The student described in this article may have been very lucky that the Compliance Board didn’t exist when she filed her Public Information Act request. Her strategy of taking immediate action and relying on the court of public opinion was probably by far the better option. For routine Maryland local government email scams that the Public Information Act won’t address, see elighthouse.info.
The Capital also editorialized on this story:
Editorial, Our say: Rating shows up flaws in state government, Capital, November 17, 2015.