110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Elected officials: Sign the pledge
posted Nov 15, 2010 - 1:39:31pm
In West Volusia alone, there are at least six individuals now holding public office who have never served in that capacity before.
On the county, state and national levels, there are hundreds more political newcomers, thanks to a fresh groundswell of concern about government and a call for greater accountability in how taxpayer money is used.
There’s not much use claiming to be accountable to the public, if the public can’t find out what its government is doing.
In Florida, we can be grateful for broad, public-serving, open-government laws, which assure the taxpayer’s access to all the documents and deliberations of his or her government.
We especially urge those newcomers to public office to contemplate how these laws now apply to their lives. Some cities offer seminars for new city-commission and city-council members, and that’s very helpful.
No longer is it OK to engage in discussions about city business, using one’s personal e-mail account, and then refuse the public access to that account, as happened not too long ago in one West Volusia city. Each public official must pause before hitting the “delete” key, lest he or she destroy a public record that’s protected by law.
Holding public office is an awesome responsibility. Part of that responsibility is managing the documents created in discharging the duties of the office. Nowadays, in addition to letters, memos and financial documents, those records include e-mails, Facebook posts and even text messages.
We join the Brechner Center at the University of Florida in encouraging all public officials — newcomers and veterans — to sign the Brechner Center’s Open Government Pledge, to demonstrate their commitment to governmental transparency.
Officials who sign the pledge will be listed on the Brechner Center’s website. Currently, sadly, none are listed.
Here’s the wording of the pledge:
“I believe that open and transparent government is essential to our democracy. Florida’s citizens have both constitutional and statutory guarantees of access to government records and meetings, and access to this information is vital for citizens to exercise their political power.
“I pledge to abide by the spirit and letter of Florida’s Public Records and Open Meetings Laws. I will also uphold citizens’ constitutional right of access as established by the Florida Constitution. I will make diligent efforts to ensure that my employees and colleagues understand and promote compliance with open government laws.
“Further, I agree to use mobile electronic communications or social media for public business only if the proper systems are in place to capture and retain these public records. I will also support efforts to place government information online whenever possible in order to facilitate access for Florida citizens.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of West Volusia’s city, county and state representatives were listed among those willing to make this commitment to accountability? We could be leaders in encouraging other elected officials across the state to sign the pledge.
The people put you in office. Now, let the people know you plan to continue to include them in the operation of their government. Visit the Brechner Center online, at http://brechner.org/, and sign the pledge.
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