“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton.
Power left unchecked will eventually become crooked. Requiring transparency in public business is critical to avoid fraud and dishonesty.
We have seen how a lack of oversight causes problems at the state level, in the recent Health Department’s financial crisis. The Department manufactured a $30 million hole, laying off almost 200 employees. Under Governor Stitt, the state is taking control over appointment of the Health Department director, in hopes that future scandals can be avoided.
At the county level transparency as equally important, I am in the process of reviewing all the active grants and contracts the county is engaged in to make sure we are operating both cost-efficiently and honestly.
One of the county’s biggest endeavors for accountability is compliance with the state’s “Open Meetings Act.” The law is a good one, as it inhibits a majority of an elected board from meeting without the public’s oversight, aside for “executive sessions.”
Effectively, I cannot meet with either of my fellow county commissioners, given that would immediately constitute a 2/3 majority. Even if we were not discussing public business, someone would accuse us of doing so, perhaps necessitating an investigation. Thus it is best simply to avoid meeting or communicating altogether.
Public bodies with more than three members, such as city councils or our own County Budget Board, can comply with the Open Meetings Act and still have members meet each other generally. With a three-person Board, such a system makes it cumbersome to brainstorm or discuss issues generally. But the cause of transparency is worth it.