Catch the spirit

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We were happy to introduce the county’s new prosecutor to you in our page one story, “Back on the Job,” and apologize for not including a photo of Mr. Jackson with that story.

Unfortunately, the new deputy county attorney requested— twice— that we not take his photo, and while we object to his desire to maintain a degree of anonymity while holding a public office in our community, we are even more concerned that other local officials may follow his cue and feel entitled to perform their own duties— on your behalf— without an appropriate level of transparency.

As the holidays approach, we are often reminded not to forget the ‘spirit of the season,’ and we would like to use Mr. Jackson’s unfortunate stance to remind all public officials of the spirit and intent of Wyoming’s “Sunshine Laws.”

The Sunshine Laws are those rules that ensure your access, as citizens, to government meetings and public documents. There are exceptions to those rules spelled out in state statute, but those exceptions are very narrow and the Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that they should be interpreted narrowly.

In short, Wyoming’s open meetings and public records laws are intended to allow the public as much access as possible to their government, and those rules were written in the spirit of encouraging public involvement in government.

There is certainly no law requiring the deputy county attorney to allow his picture to be distributed in the community he serves, but we would argue that it is hard to hold the public trust if you aren’t even willing to reveal your identity. As such, his refusal is really no different that an elected board finding a loophole in the laws that exist to shut citizens out of a meeting by inventing a reason to go into executive session or refusing to allow the public an opportunity to comment.

It might not be illegal, but it is definitely wrong, and it is a clear violation of the spirit of this state’s open government laws.

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