SC

SC Needs To Fix FOIA For Real

For those of you keeping score at home, South Carolina ranks dead last in the nation when it comes to the accessibility of government documents. In other words, our state’s elected officials are better than anyone when it comes to keeping secrets. What’s driving this unparalleled culture of secrecy? Easy:…

fix foia

For those of you keeping score at home, South Carolina ranks dead last in the nation when it comes to the accessibility of government documents. In other words, our state’s elected officials are better than anyone when it comes to keeping secrets.

What’s driving this unparalleled culture of secrecy?

Easy: Our state’s “Republican-controlled” General Assembly does NOT want you to know how they spend your money. Or who they are spending their nights with. Accordingly, they have permitted the rampant abuse of our state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws – while at the same time completely exempting themselves from having to follow these laws.

Ridiculous, right? Of course …

FOIA is an essential tool for holding elected officials accountable – which is why these elected officials are perpetually looking for ways to weasel out of it.

Standing against this culture of secrecy is one legislative veteran: S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn.

Against the urging of other “FOIA reformers,” Quinn – an ex-GOP majority leader – introduced a FOIA amendment last year which would have forced state lawmakers to follow these laws. He’s pushing a similar statutory change this year.

“Meaningful reform must include the elimination of the legislative exemption from FOI laws,” Quinn told FITS recently. “I will continue to press for this reform. We had two decisive votes in favor of the proposal in the House. We must hold the Senate’s feet to the fire.”

And apparently the governor’s feet, too …

In addition to using the FOIA exemption to cover up evidence of her extramarital affairs, Haley has ignored the law in an effort to keep a lid on public access to her gubernatorial actions. Months after taking office Haley’s administration began charging reporters for responding to FOIA requests. A few months after that, the self-appointed transparency queen deliberately omitted relevant emails sought via FOIA by reporter Renee Dudley ofThe (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.

S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor is proposing a host of FOIA reforms this legislative session – including some important revisions to the current law (and strengthening of penalties for refusing to follow it) – but his proposal stops short of addressing the legislative exemption.

It shouldn’t …

So long as one branch of government views itself as being “above the law,” South Carolina will never have true transparency.

Taylor and Quinn should join forces on real FOIA reform in the S.C. House, while the “Republican-controlled” Senate and governor’s office should stop stonewalling these long-overdue reforms.

***

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15 comments

B. Dickerson January 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Sic Willie is wrong with this column. As Governor Haley herself has made is very easy to obtain public records. Just ask anyone at the SCDOR how easy it was for all that public information to had been gotten so easily.
Along with public documents include those that have the names of those with CWPs.

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Nancy January 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Gov. Haley initially cited the law that exempts them from FOIA but eventually did release information. I also know that she supports FOIA.

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Nancy January 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

@ B Dickerson, LOL – I missed your sense of humor the first time ;)

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Edwin January 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm

You’re full of yourself. Please, seek out serioud cognitive therapy for your psychosis!

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commonman January 25, 2013 at 1:20 pm

It looks bad for the home team. Our new royal class, the elected officials, know what is best for us peons. We deserve what we elect.

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Nancy January 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

@ By commonman I would agree with that, EXCEPT our election was pretty stolen this round.

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? January 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

So the claim is our population is filled with masochists when the election isn’t stolen?

:)

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Nancy January 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I prefer to think of it as “some” politicians are sadists :)

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A face in the crowd January 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

http://thenerve.org/news/2013/01/14/Viewpoints-Fay/

As the writer states, it is simply an obstructionist culture, and people put up with it. People get the government they deserve.

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interested January 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

aha. so now that Haley’s going after Fits’ Amazon money, Fits is going to support quinn in the primary against her… why else would this site be shilling for quinn?

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Edwin January 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm

There needs to be stiffer and enforce criminal penalities for FOI violations. It is already codified in section 30 of the SCCOL. But nobody ever gets charged for violation the law.

The entire state of SC has got to be cleaned up and OUT – PERIOD!

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Paul Curry January 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

SCCOL Section 30-4-110:
Any person or group of persons who willfully violates the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days for the first offense, shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than sixty days for the second offense and shall be fined three hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than ninety days for the third or subsequent offense.

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yowser January 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm

An FOI request to a Governmental Agency? It is all in how you word it! That is the rules at a certain Health Agency!

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Paul Curry January 26, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Former Interim Town Manager Benny Lee Webb was convicted for assaulting me when I went to the Atlantic Beach Town Hall to ask to view a contract for legal services that the Council had voted on three weeks before. Listen, as the jury was able to do, to what happened:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnDyDc7D–E

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snorlax January 27, 2013 at 11:52 am

lol this is hilarious

Reply

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