Ethics and Secrecy in Jefferson City

Article excerpt

The laudable impulse that created the Missouri Ethics Commission is badly undermined by its chairman's refusal to make public a report that criticized its operation. By hiding behind exemptions in the state's Open Records law, Chairman John Maupin not only shields poor performance but leads the public to believe government is more interested in protecting its own than in serving the taxpayers.

The study of the Ethics Commission was conducted this summer by two members of the state's Office of Administration. The commission had sought the review after state Auditor Margaret Kelly made several criticisms of the agency, including a failure to enforce campaign finance disclosure laws; an unauthorized payment of $9,300 to Marion N. Sinnett, its top administrator; and examples of withholding information from the public.

The Office of Administration's report was discussed with the commission in a four-hour closed-door session last week, but after the meeting, Mr. Maupin said he would not discuss it or make it public. The next day, he cited as legal justification for his decision a provision of the Open Records law that exempts from public scrutiny records that involve "individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment. …