Independence Examiner, Thursday 05/16/02

OUR OPINION

The Examiner

Release the information

What is the County hiding?

Three Jackson County legislators are formally asking the county counselor's office for a fuller accounting of the case of Turner vs. Garcia.

The Examiner supports this request. It is in the public's interest to know how public money is being spent and what action's are being taken in the public's name, and the county counselor has so far essentially refused to be accountable in this matter.

The case arose over the county's violations of the Sunshine Law, the state law that governs open meetings and open records. Citizens sued the county over the handling of a murder investigation, and the county lost. Some issues in the case are still before the trial judge.

The county counselor's office has given several lame excuses for not doing a major part of its job, which is to explain itself to the taxpayers. So Legislators Victor Callahan, Bill Petrie and Terry Young have gone so far as to put their request for information in writing. The Examiner also has signed on to the request.

The request is simple:

- The counselor's office should produce case logs from the last 17 months for each attorney and paralegal in the county counselor's office.

- County Counselor Jane McQueeny needs to clarify whether such records are kept "regularly or fairly, or only when expedient." McQueeny's own comments raise this concern, because in at least one instance she has suggested such records exist and at other times regarding this case she has flatly denied that they exist.

- The counselor's office needs to tally up how much all of this has cost the taxpayers so far. Even the cost is top-secret stuff, according to McQueeny.

It's sad that things have to go this far. This is information that any citizen is entitled to and should be able to walk into the county courthouse and get. There is no justification for the treatment of public information as one official's private domain.

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