Priority 1 for next session: Beef up open records laws

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I have been long-railing against the insanity that is Alabama’s public records laws, or the way executive offices  — specifically the Governor’s office, and more recently the Department of Transportation — and as Kyle Whitmire wrote about today, the Attorney General’s office also likes to hide documents, ignore requests and duck the law that allows residents to see what’s really happening behind closed doors.

Enough is enough folks.

Any elected official who’s office hides what should be accessible information and cherry picks who gets it, and when, needs to face consequences. Any staffer working within the government that obstructs requests — here’s looking at you Daniel Sparkman and Josh Pendergrass in Gov. Kay Ivey‘s press shop — needs to be fired on the spot.

This is ridiculous. We as residents of the state, taxpayers, voters, yes and even in the press are responsible for holding our elected officials and those working for them accountable. We have every right to see what’s going on behind closed doors when it comes to state government and if you’re in impeding our ability to do so you need to go. Moreover there should be criminal sanctions for those who take pride and pleasure in obstructing transparency.

It’s infuriating that there is no recourse when, either as individuals or as media, we are lied to, documents are withheld, or information is given by the discretion of others. We have to globally, across the state, raise our voices and do more. Demand better.

When the Legislature comes back they are going to tackle ethics reform and a substantial part of that needs to include actual ramifications for public employees who hide information, for departments who don’t comply in a timely manner, or with full information on records requests.

For our appointed and elected officials and those who work for them, transparency is a cornerstone of our democracy. Without it we cannot hold government officials accountable. Information doesn’t belong behind closed doors, shrouded in secrecy.

Every single person in the state, regardless of your political party or position on issues, every single Alabamian should reach out to their state representatives, their state senators, the Governor and the Attorney General and tell them that we won’t take stonewalling in producing public information. Here’s a link to contact the Governor’s office , you can also tweet to her and her campaign and the attorney general.

There’s an election right around the corner and not a single soul should be elected or reelected without promising to give Alabama’s open record law teeth and to hold their staff and appointees accountable when they don’t.

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