Monday, February 4, 2013

Newspaper Applauds Governor Pence's Call for Stronger Transparency and Ethics Rules

One of the areas I believe that a Governor Mike Pence can greatly improve upon Governor Mitch Daniels approach is in strengthening the state's approach to transparency and ethics.  A recent editorial in the Muncie Star-Press applauded Governor Pence's first steps in that direction:
Mike Pence didn’t waste any time getting to work after being sworn in as Indiana governor.

The afternoon following the ceremony Monday, he issued 15 executive orders, putting a number of his core political beliefs into action with directives on ethics, red tape, aiding traditional families and boosting jobs among military veterans.

One of the directives requires every state agency to appoint an ethics officer charged with promoting transparency and integrity in government. His order also calls on the state inspector general to hold an ethics conference each year to serve as a refresher course of sorts on the topic.

This is an important step both philosophically and practically.

First, it sends a message to all Hoosiers that government will be operated above board and in the open.

That’s important. It underscores the issue’s importance and bolsters confidence in the democratic process.

Second, Pence’s order does not grow out of any scandal or particular problem. But by setting up a protocol and ordering annual refreshers, state officials should be better equipped to prevent potentially problematic situations from even arising.

In a democracy, it is vital that the public buy into the governing process. The greater the transparency in governmental operations, the greater the public confidence and trust in the leaders and their decisions.

The governor’s order on ethics is a good first step toward a fully open administration.
I agree with the editorial.  But there is much more work to be done.  One issue that Governor Pence should take up is strengthening the power of the Public Access Counselor and reviewing the procedures that office uses in handling complaints.  As I've noted on these pages, the PAC doesn't use the traditional complaint-response-rebuttal process used in courts and most administrative agencies.  Rather the PAC simply takes the facts cited in the agency's response to the consumer complaint as true without even asking for input regarding the response from the original complainant.   That too often leads to the PAC simply accepting the agency's spin and its facts, and concluding that the agency acted appropriately in failing to disclose public document.

Similarly Governor Daniels and other state-wide officials' first steps toward more transparent government need to be expanded.  While it is true that many government documents can be found on-line, many documents are very difficult to access as the state employs some of the most user-unfriendly computer software known to man.  Many documents though are not available on-line even if one could figure out how to use the state's software.
Map of State Shield Laws (click to enlarge)
Indiana's shield law, which was enacted in 1998, needs to be updated to include citizen journalists, i.e. bloggers. While the First Amendment in many jurisdictions has been interpreted to extend journalism shield protection to bloggers who write on a regular basis, Indiana and the 7th Circuit do not appear to have yet addressed that issue.  Governor Mike Pence, who authored a federal media shield law called the Free Flow of Information Act of 2011,which he also co-sponsored in 2005, 2007 and 2009, only to see it die in the Senate, is in an ideal position to push for a strengthening and updating of Indiana's shield law.
"Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular, compelling them to reveal the identity of their confidential sources, is a detriment to the public interest," Pence said in a statement. "Without the free flow of information from sources to reporters, the public is ill-equipped to make informed decisions."
"As a conservative who believes in limited government, I know the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press," Pence continued. "The Free Flow of Information Act is not about protecting reporters; it is about protecting the public's right to know."
The saying is "sunshine is the best antiseptic."   Corruption and self-dealing thrive only when doors are closed and the public can't see what is going on.  The media, including bloggers, are the eyes of the public.  There needs to be a shield to protect the flow of information to the media.  Governor Pence is in a position to make that happen and to make his administration into a nationwide leader in transparency, openness and ethics.


Bradley said...

Governor Pence re-appointed Inspector General Dave Thomas. That tells me just about all I need to know right there.

Pete Boggs said...

Republicans or euro-liberals ???

Senator Kenley, lobbying Congress for more & new taxes on internet COMMERCE. What???

Senator Long et al, adopting federalized curves in the spine of state, ignoring duties under article 10 of US Constitution by rules committee burial of coherent opposition to the IRS projected $20K / family "Affordable" Health Care Act (Obamacare)!!!

Republicans in the GA cautioning Governor Pence on income tax reductions while other states move forward with zero'd out individual & corporate rates (LA)!!!

There is no distinct Republican party, as 8M voters observed & abstained from any pretense of same in last November's election. There's the Republican trend, less (participation) is or must be "more," government that is...

Karl Marx or Rove, what's the difference measured in terms of results? When in real numbers & MEANINGFUL terms, did any of these people reduce the size or lower the cost (taxes) of government?

Pete Boggs said...

The Indiana trend under Republicans is more, new & higher taxes excused with the "It'd be worse under the other party" mantra.

Some states will figure out the competitive edge of lower cost of government via lower taxes. Indiana will lose to those states whose less government advertising matches policy.

The republican majority in Indiana is clearly not one of smaller government.

Pete Boggs said...

PS- Where states stand on forced adoption of ACA:

Anonymous said...

You should have ethical transparency in your Smalls Claims Courts. Start with the places it really counts and start weeding out your unethical Judges, like Judge Hockman in Decatur Township.Judge Hockman is taking kick backs from the attorneys and Judge Hockman always sides with the collection attorney's that charge and obtain huge collection fee's. Decatur citizens, this Judge doesn't rule for the people and here's an glimpse of what he did in Marion County; "Myron Hockman, Prosecutor's office thought the 911 tape of a pleading, crying, and begging for help was nothing but laughable. Myron Hockman actually laughed at the tapes..."
The collection attorney's are nothing but bottom feeders, feeding off the poor. Judge Hockman and the collection attorney's are unethical. three cases filed in federal court in Indianapolis involve a plaintiff who lives in Hendricks County but was sued in Decatur Township. Kickbacks going to the Judge from the attorney's. Despite the reasons the plantiff argued, the Judge always ruled in favor of the collection agency.
That's who is working in our community. Disgusting.