Independence Examiner, Wednesday 03/06/02

Answer to the public

County mess continues


The Examiner

There are times when the performance of public officials is almost laughably bad.Jackson County has more than its share of bad government days.

This week it is once again County Counselor Jane McQueeny. Her office was given the job of defending the indefensible in a recent civil case that established that the county's Office of Human Relations and Citizens Complaints broke the law by meeting in secret and withholding public documents.

The judge gave commission members a slap on the wrist -- nearly meaningless fines -- but county legislators are still curious about just how much of the county's time and money went into defending the commission.

McQueeny told them she doesn't want to talk about it.

Well, wait a minute, legislators said. Aren't we the ones who have agreed to ponied up for the county officials' fines?

"I don't want to discuss this in a public forum," McQueeny said.

It doesn't matter what McQueeny wants. Sooner or later, public officials are obliged to do what is right. This issue needs more of a public airing, not less. So far, there's not much evidence that officials in County Executive Kathern Shields' administration have learned anything or will make any changes because of the case.

The case involved a violation of the state's Sunshine Law. Legislature Chairman Victor Callahan raised the perverse and possibly accurate notion that McQueeny's refusal to discuss this in public could end up with further violations of yup the Sunshine Law.

Memo to all concerned: You're all working for the public. You're all spending the public's money. You're all accountable to the public. If legislators ask questions, they deserve answers.

Memo to Shields (McQueeny's boss): Please explain all of this to the county counselor.

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