Friday, November 21, 2008

A Good Government Proposal for Indianapolis: Require That All City Contracts Be Posted On-Line

Having worked in and out of government for 20 plus years, one thing I have learned is that the best government is government that operates in the open. When government operates behind closed doors or hides things from the public, greed, self-dealing and even corruption can enter the picture. I strongly believe in open records law for that purpose.

Unfortunately, even with open records laws, our government still often fights tooth and nail to keep secrets. That is aided by the fact that with the open records law if you do not know exactly what to request, you probably are not going to get a response. Even if you know what to request, the City has been known to be less than willing to produce documents. For example, it took our law firm longer than a month and the filing of a complaint with the Public Access Counselor to get City Legal to produce a privatization contract the Sheriff had entered into with CCA. Now City Legal is back to dragging their feet on producing additional privatization contracts involving the Sheriff we requested last week. By contrast, under the Goldsmith administration I used to be able to walk into the City-County Building and immediately be provided any private vendor contract with the city I requested. Apparently the folks over at City Legal harbor the very mistaken belief the have the right to control the viewing of city contracts.

There is a very simple good government step that either the Mayor's Office or the City-County Council can take. Adopt a policy (or in the case of the council an ordinance) that anyone or any company that contracts to do business with the city is required to have that contract with the city posted on-line. The contracts are already public record. Posting of the contract is a very simple procedure that would cost the city virtually nothing and be a tremendous step to open government. If the vendor wants taxpayer money, they should be required to agree to the posting of the contract. If they don't want to agree, then they should not be allowed to do business with the city.

I know such a proposal would bring howls of protest from many vendors, including some law firms, which would prefer that the full measure of the work they receive from the city not be be made public. Many of those vendors who do business with the city are political contributors or are politically connected. That's happens with every administration. To me though, that is all the more reason that the information needs to be made public.

This is a good government measure that is made possible by modern technology. It is something for the Mayor's Office or the Council to consider.

1 comment:


I would tell vendors this: You wanna be a vendor and get government money? Be prepared to have your business with the city/state in full sunlight.