Fallin vowed 'transparency' but records still withheld
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
12/12/12 at 4:14 AM
Is it just us, or does everyone else see the immense irony of having to launch a massive search to uncover examples of transparency? Transparency means plainly visible, so these examples shouldn't be that hard to find, should they?
Gov. Mary Fallin campaigned on a pledge to run one of the most transparent administrations in state history, but some observers are saying that's not what's been happening so far. With criticisms of her withholding of records mounting, she fired off an email late last week asking her 14 Cabinet members to find "examples of transparency" for a Wednesday meeting.
The email, sent through Deputy Policy Director Andrew Silvestri, was described as "high importance." The governor wants her staff and other agency leaders to put together a "comprehensive list" of everything the governor has done to "increase transparency in government."
No doubt, after some thorough searching, some examples of transparency will be uncovered. But try though they might to prove they're transparent, the governor and her staff likely won't be able to quell the growing criticism.
That's because at the crux of the controversy is her assertion that she can use "executive privilege" to withhold a surprising array of records that others see as public documents. A few cherry-picked examples of openness aren't going to make that controversy go away.
The governor has used the executive privilege claim several times when media requests for particular documents have arisen. The Tulsa World's attorney, Schaad Titus, and others say state law includes no such privilege for the governor.
In an email explaining the governor's stance, spokesman Alex Weintz said she supports "both the letter and spirit" of the state Open Records Act and has taken steps to make more records available on the Internet.
"However, Governor Fallin does not believe the law is intended to allow access to conversations between executive branch employees working on draft documents, brainstorming on public policy ideas, offering advice and counsel to the governor, or otherwise acting in an advisory role."
That is such a broad range of communications, just about any exchange between two or more state leaders or employees could fall under it, in the governor's view.
Whether this "executive privilege" is available to the governor is a matter for a court of law to decide. But in the court of public opinion, it's unlikely Fallin will be seen as the most transparent governor in state history.
Original Print Headline: This is open?