EDITORIAL: Let the sun shine in

The Freedom of Information Act is a law that gives the public the right to access information from federal, state and local governments. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.

The public deserves to know the details of how and why elected officials and public figures conduct their business and make their decisions.

Openness within public entities leads to better communication, stronger scrutiny and progress locally and nationally.

While the current Trump administration has expressed an outright resentment toward journalists and the “media,” the previous Obama administration had its own, less flamboyant struggles with FOI.

The current administration has escalated the challenges faced by reporters, blocking them from meetings, attacking them on social media — even going so far as to call them the enemy of the people. But the public, even more than the press, has the right to know what the administration, Congress, the Board of Selectmen, and all government agencies are doing.

Flaws in open governance occur on both sides of the aisle, but it is particularly troubling when the highest held office in the country sets the example that information for the public is on a “need to know” basis, or undermines reporters by assailing their work as “fake news.”

This is not the example that public officials on any level, including Easton and other small towns like it, should follow. Elected officials serve their constituency, not the other way around.

It’s a right of any resident to know, and ask, what public officials are doing.

That includes local public officials, who should be filing appropriately timed meeting warnings, should be clear about the need for executive sessions and the topic requiring them, recording and submitting thorough meetings, and having town-based email systems so that all their town business is on the record.

Elected officials sometimes need reminders that their business is open to the public. The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission conducts information sessions for boards or commissions that fail to comply with the law. The FOIC also conducts sessions for agencies that request them so they can better serve the public.

Every week should be sunshine week when it comes to open and free government of the people, by the people and for the people.

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