In Wyoming, university secrecy at any cost?

I’ll never quite get the secrecy argument where university presidential searches are concerned. These are huge taxpayer bills, and the chief executive officer of a public university seems to me to owe the public the opportunity to weigh in…

The Wyoming Legislature apparently disagrees with me entirely:

A state judge’s ruling last week that the University of Wyoming must make public documents containing the identities of the school’s presidential search finalists might become void if the state’s lawmakers approve newly introduced legislation.

On Thursday, one day after the state judge’s ruling, lawmakers introduced a bill that would keep documents related to presidential searches secret. The bill was unanimously passed out of committee today in Wyoming’s House of Representatives.

It’s not clear how the proposed legislation would affect the judge’s ruling. In his ruling, Judge Jeffrey Donnell set a Feb. 5 deadline for the university to release the finalists’ names.

Chad Baldwin, the university’s director of institutional communications, said if HB 223 becomes a law, it would prevent the finalists’ names from being released. Bruce Moats, an attorney who represented the media, called that a “$24 million question” and said he’s doing research to determine whether the law would override the judge’s ruling.

The bill, which amends the state’s public record inspection statute, would definitely affect future presidential searches at the University of Wyoming and community colleges in the state. All records or information relating to the search process would be made private if their release would identify a candidate.

In November, The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, The Casper Star-Tribune and The Associated Press filed a lawsuit against the university and its board of trustees seeking get access to documents including meeting schedules and itineraries that would reveal finalists’ names, Casper Star-Tribune Editor Darrell Ehrlick said.

Wyoming Works On An FOI Bill…Improvement or Setback?

As always, it depends on how the sausage is ground:

State senators approved a public records bill Monday after changing it to keep secret from the public many documents that show how elected officials make decisions.

The bill — Senate File 25 — also would prohibit the public from seeing correspondence that is sent to less than a majority of a political body…

As approved by senators Monday, the bill would prevent any member of the public from seeing documents related to “pre-decisional” or “deliberative” communications. That designation would apply to anything from advisory opinions to suggestions from experts, staff or anyone else…

The joint judicial committee this fall advanced a bill that did not contain any restrictions related to deliberative documents or provisions to keep secret the documents sent to less than a majority of a board.

Wyoming Legislature Passes Ultimate Lobbyist and Influence Peddling Privacy Act…

Wow…several states have flirted with passing laws this bad, but hey, Wyoming, way to go! You just manned up and went there, didn’t ya?

State lawmakers voted today to draft legislation that would make emails sent to members of city councils, school boards and other elected bodies exempt from public records law.

The legislation would keep out of public view any correspondence sent directly to members of elected bodies, as long as the documents aren’t sent to a majority of the group.

The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee also directed legislative staffers to add language that would exempt deliberative documents that are “integral parts of the decision-making process.”

Those additions prompted the Wyoming Press Association, which was part of a working group that suggested revisions to the state’s public records law, to immediately pull its support for the draft bill. The two exemptions were proposed by the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, and not the entire working group.

The draft public records bill includes several revisions supported by the press association. But the exemptions were too much to keep the group from splitting.

“That was more of a loss than we gained,” press association Director Jim Angell said after the vote.

The committee also directed legislative staff to draft a revised open meetings law. Those revisions are supported by the government groups and the press association.

Why is this a phenomenally, mind-achingly bad piece of legislation? Well, the most obvious reason is that no one is NOT a constituent, so long as you represent them, including, oh well, let me think: regulated industries, lobbyists, influence peddlers of every stripe…these “constituents” now have an untrammeled one-way walkie talkie called private e-mail for hitting up those lawmakers. Handy!

And of course, this FOI implosion also contains nifty language shielding from disclosure documents that are “”integral parts of the decision-making process.” Of course! Wo wants to know how decisions are made, and what factors might have led to them, and whether they were undue influences? That whole self-governance thing? Boooooring…..

This essentially marks the demise of any functional transparency in Wyoming.

CD

 

 

Good News From Wyoming…

Efforts to improve Wyoming public records and open meetings laws have moved from conflict to cooperation, members of a legislative committee learned here Friday.

Officials from the Wyoming Press Association, the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association sat side by side before the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Interim Committee and explained recent efforts to work together to produce agreed-upon changes in government access laws.

This is a change in approach for the three groups, which traditionally have been at loggerheads over alterations to the statutes. The most recent occurrence of that was this year’s legislative session, when WAM and WCCA spoke out against legislation that would have, their sponsors said, improved the laws for the subject.