Don’t close the door on transparency

The Marion County Commission has a transparency problem. Plain and simple. Whether they are holding secret, hotel meetings to introduce potential employees or misusing executive sessions to discuss taxpayer money behind closed doors, the commission has a tendency to box out the public.

But it’s not too late.

Like any other problem, the first step to recovery is to simply admit you have the problem.

If the commission has any intention to get on the straight and narrow when it comes to transparency, then they need to admit they have a problem, and then they need help.

Transparency is nothing to be scoffed at. Operating in the eyes of the public is how a government is held accountable and how a government proves it is spending taxpayer dollars effectively. It’s important to operate in the open for both the public and the government.

At most city and county meetings in this state, an administrator and/or a lawyer would give the commission advice on what is and isn’t within their rights when it comes to the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).

Because Marion County doesn’t have an administrator and the county lawyer is often absent during the commission’s weekly meetings, the commissioners will need to either learn the laws themselves, make a major change to how they run the county and ensure a lawyer who understands KOMA is always present or hire an administrator to direct county dealings – something this paper has long brought up as a needed direction for the county to prosper long-term.

Other government entities don’t have the trouble Marion County seems to have with transparency and other long-lasting issues, but a lack of leadership isn’t an excuse to the issue, especially when it comes to operating in the open.

Are the flubs with KOMA probably innocent? Only the commissioners could tell you that, and that isn’t a situation that should make the public or the commissioners happy.

Marion County needs to take the proper steps to be on the up-and-up when it comes to open meetings. It may seem like a tall task, and while we have all the faith in the world they can do it, the process must start simply – by admitting there is a problem and then going through a process to solve it.

It’s time to open the door.

– Joey Young, Publisher