Leash must remain on many in public arena
Saturday, March 16, 2013 8:35 PM
Saturday brought to a close the weeklong recognition of open and transparent government, Sunshine Week. But just because the official week ended does not mean the sun should no longer shine, the efforts to maintain and increase the amount of sunlight shed on our public bodies should come to a halt. Hardly.
We trust readers found the stories, opinion columns and editorials helpful. These are the sorts of stories only a newspaper can bring to the public, just as it is primarily newspapers that are the stalwart watchdogs of public bodies.
The Index-Journal fully intends to maintain its efforts to ensure Lakelands public bodies are abiding by the laws of this state as they relate to openness and abiding by the rules spelled out in the state's Freedom of Information Act. Why? Because if we and those individuals in the public who also join the effort don't do it, no one will, with the end result being boards, councils and others in the elected and appointed public arena operating under a cloak of secrecy.
As we have pointed out time and time again, public bodies are to do the public's work. In short, those whose tax dollars pay the salaries of people elected and appointed to positions in the public sector, are the bosses, the supervisors. What their employees do is their business; they are accountable to the public.
Sometimes - all too often, frankly - accountability, along with the knowledge those who work in public positions give up some of the privileges afforded those who work in the private sector, gets lost or forgotten along the way. Sometimes, it's deliberate, arrogant even; other times it's an unintentional consequence of doing a job and forgetting who, ultimately, the boss really is.
That is precisely why the public and media need to not shirk their duties in reminding elected and appointed people who they work for, help keep them accountable. Consider this. Two people are walking their dogs in the park. Both have their dogs on leashes. One owner has a well-trained dog, the other not so well-trained. Both owners unhook the leashes. What happens? The well-trained dog will, despite the leash being removed, stay with the owner and follow his commands. In other words, it will still abide by the rules, leashed or not. The other dog, however, will take off running through the park at will, doing as it pleases and ignoring its owners commands.
Public officials are a lot like that scenario. Some perform their jobs exactly as they should, whether on or off the leash, while others - well, others have a tendency to run at will and at large, getting lost in the park and doing things they ought not do.