Wyoming slow to test the transparency waters

Wyoming’s lack of transparency in state government is legendary. The Center for Public Integrity labeled it the worst in the nation in 2015, and the Legislature has done nothing since to improve that rating.

Now there is some movement on one aspect of this vital issue, with newly elected Gov. Mark Gordon and State Auditor Kristi Racines forming a financial transparency working group.

“This isn’t about study but about results,” Gordon said in a news release during the campaign. The group has been directed to identify and develop specific solutions to improve transparency and accessibility to state financial data “that can be implemented efficiently and expediently.”

One of the unstated goals, of course, is to do it as “inexpensively” as possible. But Wyoming shouldn’t scrimp and scrape to fulfill its obligation to the public to be as open as it can about spending and the legislative process.

One of the members of the new working group, Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander), is taking a lead role in crafting a bill that would tighten laws on agencies responding to public records requests.

Case is co-chairman of the Joint Corporations Committee, which is reviewing rules written by the State Division of Administration & Information that incorporate a controversial fee charged for accessing large public records requests.

Case’s subcommittee heard testimony on the policy of charging the public for any electronic records request that costs more than $180 to fulfill. Payment must be made in advance.

Its draft bill didn’t address fees at all, but it would create a 10-day time limit for producing records unless there is an undefined “good cause” for not meeting the deadline. The proposal would also give some teeth to enforcement of violations by public employees who fail to comply with a records request, ranging from a fine of $750 to termination.

The latter is guaranteed to make public workers sit up and take notice, and that’s a good thing. (Read more…)