Government Transparency and the Sunshine Act
Citizens from across the nation have been calling for more accountability and transparency in the functioning and decision-making process of all forms of governing bodies. As recently as this summer, former NSA employee, Eric Snowden, released a massive wave of information revealing our federal government's involvement in "spying" on American citizens. Although Snowden is more of a traitor than a patriot, his exposure brought the discussion on government transparency to the forefront of the American conversation. The same question has been debated for decades: Is our government truly a government of the people, by the people, for the people? Let's discuss.
You don't have to look far to find a lack of government transparency. Seven Honesdale Borough Council members recently were found guilty of violating the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act for denying a borough police officer's request to have a public hearing regarding a misconduct allegation. The borough police officer requested to have public hearing, which is authorized by the Sunshine Act, yet was denied a chance to publically explain his side of the story. The police officer was then passed over for the chief position and subsequently filed suit.
Each council member of the Honesdale Borough was fined $100 and was ordered to pay the costs of prosecution. The Borough Council denies wrongdoing and is appealing the ruling.
Although the Sunshine Act lacks any real "teeth" to dissuade elected officials from conducting business behind closed doors, it is a substantial step to deter future conduct. Despite the protections, although minimal, afforded by the Sunshine Act, the true burden of ensuring government transparency lies on the shoulders of the common citizen. Without voter oversight and participation, the American public is abdicates the throne of control over the government that is intended to work "for the people."
Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who sacrifice liberty for security, deserve neither." The role of self-governance is upon us all. Don't be a victim to government shut-downs and "backroom" deals. Only the citizens as a whole may collectively regain or fully concede a government for the people, by the people.