Government observatory: March 17, 2019

Once they attain a political office, many politicians:

1. Insist they are not “politicians,” while standing chin deep in a swamp of their own making;

2. Seek re-election to keep public servant jobs, especially as “servants” who too often are paid more than most people they represent – consider annual paychecks in excess of $71,000 for each Clay County commissioner; and

3. Ignore the public whenever possible, but when forced to speak, say nothing meaningful. The truth of this is seen at many press conferences, with former Gov. Eric Greitens, for example, giving evasive answers – not just about the unusual sexual proclivaties that forced him to resign – but to important questions, such as how to address Missouri’s road and bridge needs.

Question to Greitens in March 2017: What plan do you have for state roads and bridges?

• Answer: “When we get the economy moving again, we will begin to have the resources that we need to make the key investments that we have to make in roads, bridges,” which translates in everyday English to, “Blah-blah-blah.”

• After replacing Greitens, Gov. Mike Parson provided a real answer: A bond package would pay for roads and bridges. The General Assembly agreed. The state now has road and bridge funds.

Many politicians delude themselves with the idea they need not answer for what they say or do. In Missouri, what politicians say and do is addressed by state laws. These laws are known collectively as the Missouri Sunshine Law.

From county courthouses – where commissioners seem to think they do not have to say when, with whom and about what they are meeting – to the marbled hallways in Jefferson City and Washington, politicians often ignore disclosure laws. Missouri’s poorly kept, dirty little secret is that Sunshine Law penalties are so weak that few politicians have any reason to worry about ignoring them.

Points of concern involving Greitens and the Sunshine Law involved use of an application that let his team send emails that self-erased. Government emails are public records and the law does not allow them to be erased.

After the app scandal broke more than a year ago, some local governments may use the same type of app Greitens used to hide emails. This indication comes from State Auditor Nicole Galloway. Out of the blue last week, she encouraged local governments to prohibit officials from using self-deleting apps while conducting public business.

“Missourians deserve openness and transparency from all levels of government, but as we’ve seen in recent years, the use of self-deleting applications allows public business to be conducted in the shadows, “ Galloway said. “Banning the use of these programs isn’t just good government, it’s common sense.”

Galloway is right. The Ray County Commission and all cities, school districts and other governmental entities in Ray County, if they care about open government, should set an example for the entire state by voting publicly to ban the use of self-erasing apps.

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