|Commentary Authored by Sutherland Asbill and Brennan Attorney Sean Jordan and Published in the Houston Chronicle |
Transparency is key to democratic system
|October 5, 2012 11:42 pm|
By Sean Jordan, an attorney in the Austin office of Sutherland Asbill and Brennan. As former principal deputy solicitor general, he served as the lead lawyer representing the state of Texas defending the Texas Open Meetings Act in the Asgeirsson case.
In a few weeks, Americans will cast their ballots to decide who will be the president of the United States for the next four years. As the election approaches, we will repeatedly be reminded of the importance of exercising this quintessential right in our democracy, and the equal importance of being informed about the candidates' backgrounds and their positions on the issues. Like no other event, the run-up to a presidential election re-emphasizes the centrality of our right to vote and the need for information to wisely exercise that right.
But it is worth remembering that our right to be informed about the actions of our elected officials does not begin and end during a political campaign. Just as the democratic ideal is best served by a well-informed public, in turn, a well-informed public requires that the public's business be conducted for all to see.
Consistent with this foundational principle of democratic government, Texas, like every other state and the federal government, has an Open Meetings Act. A core provision of the act prohibits public officials from meeting in secret to deliberate or decide matters entrusted to their care, which ensures that public business is conducted publicly rather than privately. Violating this prohibition is a misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by a fine, confinement in jail for up to six months, or both.
Those purposes, and the benefits of open government, resonate strongly during this time, when the general public is increasingly concerned about the decision-making processes at all levels of our government.
© Copyright 2012 Hearst Communications, Inc.
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