Open government

The Missouri Ethics Commission bowed to public pressure last week and agreed that its recent secret meetings regarding campaign contributions were improper and decided to hold public meetings on the issue. Gov. Matt Blunt and his staff, however, stubbornly refuse to discuss whether or not their e-mails are public records and need to be preserved along with all other official correspondence. And the state's Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission, also under fire for failure to provide notice of its secret meetings, claims it operates under rules set by the Missouri Supreme Court, not the Missouri Sunshine Law.

There are three of the most recent examples of why the public lacks trust in its government.

The ethics commission deserves some credit for recognizing that it -- of all state boards, commissions, agencies and departments -- has an obligation to adhere to the purest interpretations of the state law on open meetings and open records.

The governor and his staff likewise should be setting an example for transparency in state government.

And the Supreme Court could take a page from the Cape Girardeau County Commission's playbook when, several years ago, it was required to fill vacancies on the Cape Girardeau School Board after three members resigned. In a bold display of open government at its best, the commission accepted applications and then conducted interviews that were open to the public.

Every public official -- and every voter and taxpayer as well -- needs to again read the opening of the Sunshine Law:

"It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public government bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 and 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy."

Public officials who look for ways to sidestep that admonition are not "public" servants. They are merely preserving their "private" interests while pretending to obey the law.