Eroding your right to know

Sunshine Week
Sunshine Week

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act is a strong defense of the people’s right to know what our government is doing. But behind the scenes, local and state officials have been undermining that right for years.

Chapter 29B of the state code stresses that, “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.” Judge for yourself whether policies and laws adopted since the law was enacted agree with that:

The exemptions process disguises the steady erosion of the public’s right to obtain government records. Given the subject, it would make sense for exemptions to the FOI Act to be adopted as amendments to it – all listed under Chapter 29B of the State Code.

Instead, exemptions often are enacted as entirely separate new laws, scattered hither and yon throughout the Code so there is less likelihood West Virginians will notice how often officials do, indeed, “decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”

Throughout the nation. this is “Sunshine Week,” a time many in the press stress the importance of open government. Here in West Virginia, the sunshine of public and press scrutiny of government remains strong – but an honest forecast would have to include the words “partly cloudy.”

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