Another week, yet another transparency problem for the increasingly opaque administration of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.
This time Haley’s budget task force is drawing criticism for its efforts to keep the media – and the public – shut out of its deliberations concerning the state’s estimated $700-$800 million shortfall.
According to the Associated Press, Haley’s budget task force hasn’t met in more than five weeks and has refused to post public notices of its meetings – anywhere. Haley’s office is also currently withholding the group’s budget recommendations from the public.
Meanwhile, the panel’s leader is openly complaining about the one instance in which a journalist was invited to attend a meeting – echoing concerns that Haley herself raised when she first formed the task force.
“(Opening the meetings) is a real tough issue because I want them to talk about everything, no matter how crazy the idea is, no matter whether it’s popular or not,” Haley told the Associated Press back in December. “I’m not going to stop (the media) from sitting in – because what we’re working with is state tax dollars. What I worry about is does that compromise what they say. Does it compromise the ideas that might be there.”
Obviously Haley thinks so because she did effectively stop the media from sitting in – thus preventing the public from hearing this panel’s deliberations.
(To read AP reporter Jim Davenport’s story on Haley’s secretive budget panel, click here).
Ironically, one of the members of Haley’s budget task force is S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess, whose organization has also made transparency in government its top priority.
In fact, Landess has battled with Haley in the past over the leadership of the transparency “movement.”
Haley’s transparency problems are nothing new. They first surfaced last May when she invoked a legislative exemption to keep her taxpayer-funded emails and phone records private after she was accused of having an extramarital affair. Months later she conducted a positively Nixonian release of mostly spam emails – refusing to let the press have access to the vast majority of her taxpayer-funded correspondence or her government-funded computer hard drives.
Additionally, Haley failed to disclose more than $40,000 in income that she received from a company with business before the state of South Carolina.
Since taking office, Haley has continued to stumble badly on transparency issues – convening a secret meeting of S.C Budget and Control Board leaders that has been broadly-condemned as a flagrant violation of the state’s open meetings law. She has also conducted virtually no official business on her taxpayer-funded cell phone and email address, prompting speculation that she is using private emails and cell phones to evade the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – something she criticized former Gov. Mark Sanford for doing.
Obviously, Haley is to be commended for her ongoing efforts to promote legislative transparency, but it’s frankly stunning to see the self-proclaimed queen of transparency running her administration so secretively.