This had been covered on other blogsites earlier, but the Argus has a good story on Gant walking when GOAC shut the doors.
Jack Getz said the recent decision by the Government Operations and Audit Committee to close a portion of its meeting to consider a report from the juvenile corrections monitor is the kind of case that should be reviewed by the state's Open Meetings Commission.Read it all here.
"Pre-emptive secrecy is a good word for it," said Getz, a member of the journalism and mass communications faculty at South Dakota State University. "It speaks to a mindset that is chilling in a democratic society. Taking the public business into private sessions has to remain a last-ditch option for very limited circumstances."
At issue is the semi-annual report of the juvenile monitor. That's the position responsible for reviewing and investigating complaints about the juvenile corrections system. The position was created after the death of Gina Score, a teenager who died in state custody in 1999."There is no reason for the report to be discussed in executive session," Gant said later. "The attorney general has ruled twice that this is a public document. Public documents should not need to be discussed behind closed doors. I decided to leave the committee room prior to the executive session because I did not want to participate in an executive session that was not necessary."
The report that troubled the panel is an open record, Republican Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Falls said after the meeting. Gant chairs the committee, but when the panel voted to close the meeting to talk about the monitor's report, he left the room.
A majority of the Government Operations and Audit Committee disagreed, voting to close last week's meeting to talk about the report.
"I'm not willing to discuss personnel matters nor juvenile matters publicly, regardless of what the report may or may not say, because my questions may lead to answers that we expect that we're not going to get," an audio record of the meeting shows Democratic Sen. Garry Moore of Yankton saying.
Moore said that when the juvenile monitor position was created, it never was intended to be public. He said if the reports must be done in the open, perhaps the Legislature should do away with the requirement that the committee review the documents.
What? According to Senator (and soon to be Representative) Moore "When the juvenile monitor position was created, it never was intended to be public." Then what was it supposed to be, "magic?" The worst part is that the report itself is public. It's the debate they wanted to make private.
Was the Juvenile monitor supposed to wave a mystical wand and make things all better? NO. His purpose is to independently investigate allegations of improper conduct. In other words, he is installing accountability into the system. That's what people demanded after Gina Score.
If specific identifying information is contained in the report, then by all means redact it and keep it confidential. But if there's a problem, it's not going to be fixed by avoiding the light of day.
Along those lines, Senator Moore seems to be forgetting who the legislators are ultimately accountable to - the electorate. Senator Gant did the right thing in taking a stand.