Government secrecy proves to be nonpartisan

A government that works in the dark is little good for citizens. That’s why the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government was formed back in 1989. Its purpose is simple: to keep the light shining on the actions of public officials who might prefer to do business behind closed doors.

Over the years, FOG has been active in pressing for laws to ensure access to public records and meetings, as well as educating people about what the New Mexico sunshine laws require of officials.

When thwarted, FOG also has been ready to file lawsuits when government agencies are hiding information that rightly belongs to the public.

Currently, FOG is suing to force the release of a secret audit of New Mexico behavioral health service providers. The audit was used as justification for freezing Medicaid payments to those providers by the state Department of Human Services. That freeze has resulted in transferring much of the management of behavioral health care providers to Arizona agencies, disrupting service to patients and putting New Mexico health operators out of business.

Allegations of fraud have been lobbied — yet citizens, who paid for the audit, have no way of judging whether these allegations have any basis.

Keeping secrets is nonpartisan, too. Gov. Susana Martinez is Republican, but Attorney General Gary King, a Democrat, also won’t release the audit. He says it’s a law enforcement document, and thus, private.

Before it was turned over to him for use in a possible criminal case, it was an audit, paid for by taxpayers. They deserve to see it, especially since the Martinez administration has leaked selective portions to prove a case against the providers in the court of public opinion.

It’s hard to argue for secrecy when you are letting loose the most damaging portions of a document.

The case has yet to be decided (also suing over the audit are New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News).

In filing the suit, FOG is just continuing its legacy of standing for the people’s right to know.

Seeking to keep information public is just what the Foundation for Open Government does.

As we have seen — whether it’s a Democrat or Republican, a governor, mayor or a bureaucrat — once in power, the temptation to keep things under wraps is universal. To turn that tide, to keep the lights on, there is the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

We’re better off because it exists.

 

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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