Sunshine Laws there for a reason

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

Shh! Someone might hear you. We&8217;re much better off if we keep this between the two of us. Let&8217;s not tell anyone. What they don&8217;t know won&8217;t hurt them. Ever hear anyone say that?

Maybe if you did and you&8217;re a part of the cover-up plot, the phrase seems harmless. But if you overhear the cover-up without knowing what&8217;s being kept secret, the curiosity can be maddening.

Secrets can bring out the absolute worst in people and can be one of the most destructive forces in our society.

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Unfortunately, among the worst offenders in our country are the people who should know better &8212; our own government.

Today begins a special week set aside to heighten awareness of the problem and the laws in place to prevent them.

Never, perhaps, has a set of legal principles had a more apt name: the Sunshine Laws. Just as the sunshine from overhead warms and sheds light on our world, the Sunshine Laws &8212; in all their many forms &8212; aim to shed light on the activities of the government.

Nearly 40 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act into law, opening the way for citizens to begin rummaging through the federal information closets.

States soon adopted similar laws regarding records and dictating the way public meetings must be conducted.

Despite the laws, however, protecting the public&8217;s right to know is a constant battle.

Secrets unrelated to national security still exist in all branches of government. Until the &8220;sunshine&8221; of public scrutiny falls upon those secrets, the work to keep public business truly public will never be complete.