OTHER OPINION: Mississippi clouds its public information

By Sun Herald, Gulfport/Biloxi

Readers of the Sun Herald will not be surprised to learn that the Sunshine Review, which collects and shares information about state and local government transparency, has rated Mississippi one of the least transparent states in the nation.
In its latest “report card,” the five states earning the highest grades are California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington. The five worst states are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota.
The Sunshine Review is a nonprofit organization that collaborates with individuals and other organizations across America to promote state and local transparency.
What is the value of public officials conducting public business openly?
Here’s the Sunshine Review’s tale of two counties from this week’s report:
“Two of the best examples of improvements come from the state of Colorado.
“Douglas County was the first county in Colorado to earn an A+ website transparency grade from Sunshine Review. The county dedicated itself to incorporating transparency into the way it governed, in its mission, vision and code of conduct. In short, Douglas County officials viewed transparency as an essential part of their jobs and citizens responded very positively to their actions …
“Then there is the story of Adams County, Colorado. Adams County was under investigation for a number of corruption charges including theft, bribery, sexual harassment, unlawful perks in the manner of free cars, and ultimately bilking taxpayers out of at least $1.8 million.
“After seeing the successes in Douglas County, Adams County officials decided they needed to correct their approach to governing, and in May 2011 they committed to sweeping ethics reforms.
“ … Exactly one year after committing to government transparency, the county officials reported saving $1 million from their reform efforts.”
…. Proactive disclosure ensures that citizens have the information necessary to hold their local governments accountable …by making sure they are conducting business properly and honestly in the first place.”
That’s as true on the Coast as it is in Colorado.

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