The Des Moines Register reports today that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is willing to hand some of his authority to a new board the Legislature may create to enforce open meetings and records law.
It’s good news for the bill. But something Miller said was curious:
Miller said years-long concerns over conflicts of interest and scant enforcement by his office had little to do with his decision. Rather, he said, he determined it was not cost-effective to spend resources investigating the disputes, most of which came from smaller communities around the state.
“It’s difficult – and not very efficient – to enforce those laws in the 900 different cities and counties around the state,” he said.
So although it is efficient for Miller’s office to pursue national lawsuits against high-profile targets such as Microsoft, it’s too “difficult” to enforce state laws that guarantee Iowans have access to the deliberations of the government they supposedly run.
I get very tired of public officials who act like these laws are bothersome distractions that only mean something to pesky reporters and gadfly cranks. Without these laws, democracy doesn’t work, it’s that simple. These laws are among the most important on the books, and they’re certainly worth the time and energy of the state’s chief law enforcement officer and his staff.
I know looking into some local school board’s illegal meeting or sticking up for some small town nobodies who got screwed over by their city council isn’t as glamorous as jetting to Washington D.C. for a press conference, but it’s work that needs to be done.
I hope now the Legislature will hand the job over to someone who wants to do it.