Fighting for Transparency
The Inside Scoop
I wanted to get a picture of my cats in some kind of holiday festivity, but they would not cooperate, sorry.
My most recent Freedom of Information Act request to Houghton County has been met by the new administrator in much the same fashion as the previous administrator met them earlier this year—with lip service toward transparency, but very little action to support that.
Of the several documents I requested, I was granted only two. I’m quite confident that more documents can and should be supplied to the public, and I’ll be appealing the decision soon. I’ve already been communicating with my lawyers about it.
That’s all aside from my newest observation, though.
The fact that this style of response has carried on from one administrator to the next tells me this is no accident. This practice of “shining on” of FOIA requestors is a trained and intentional practice of county officials, and that concerns me far more than any individual document that I’m unable to view.
Government officials hiding documents (and by extension, their actions) means one or two things; they already have something to hide, or they don’t want to be overseen as they do something. Both fly in the face of “government by the people, for the people”.
The administrator, during our email exchange, suggested I was wasting my time fighting for this FOIA request. I’m sure many people give up after being turned down once or twice. But ensuring government transparency is part of the job of a journalist, and I wouldn’t be doing it if it was a waste of time.
The more any government tries to hide something, the more worthwhile it is for a journalist to dig up. That’s the job.