Editorial: Sunshine Week highlights need for greater government transparency

Editorial from The Plain Dealer This is not Sunshine Week because the gray skies are parting and the temperatures have begun to rise. It's because this is the time of the year designated to promote transparency in government. Clearly, some of that is needed.

The more enlightened a society becomes, the more government officials should realize the importance of open meetings and open records.

Sadly, that hasn't always been the case, as recent events at the federal, state and local levels have shown.

The Obama administration has been criticized frequently for its failure to release records under the Freedom of Information Act. The Associated Press recently reported that, in 2014, the federal government wound up reversing on appeal, at least in part, one in three of the FOIA requests it initially denied.

And in Ohio, a new law misguidedly keeps the names of lethal-injection drug providers secret under the dubious claim that nobody would provide the drugs if their names were made public.

Condemned inmates pressing an appeal of their sentences and the general public concerned about the costs, quality and efficacy of drugs used in capital punishment have a right to know this information.

And in South Euclid, five members of its City Council recently censured two of their fellow council members for publicly discussing, as they asserted, a matter brought to their attention in executive session that concerned the hiring of the mayor's son by a law firm doing business with the city. The two reprimanded council members believed rightly that the matter should have been discussed openly.

That incident highlights the potential for government boards of all stripes in Ohio to abuse the use of executive sessions to avoid political embarrassment or some other undesired fallout from public disclosure.

As Dennis Hetzel, director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, suggests, rather than err on the side of transparency, government officials too often search for reasons to keep information secret.

Still, some are doing it right. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel recently put Ohio's expenditures online at OhioCheckbook.com and Ohio Auditor Dave Yost continues to believe that he should be allowed to audit JobsOhio, the state's quasi-private development arm that relies on state liquor revenue for its funding.

Government officials are great at coming up with reasons to hide what they do, and they often claim that it's for the greater good of the people, but in very few instances can that case be convincingly made.