in Houston, Texas
Would a dose of Texas-like transparency have opened the Penn State scandal earlier?
Monday, Jul 16, 2012, 04:07PM CST
By Steve Miller
penn

Texas is graced with some of the nation’s best open records access. It has an arbitrator of disputes in the state Attorney General’s office that, while we may not always agree with it, does its best to ensure the law is followed.

The Beaumont Enterprise makes an excellent point in an editorial run over the weekend, celebrating our state’s transparency while noting that the travesty of coverup at Penn State may have been prevented if the state of Pennsylvania did not have laws that shielded the university from the public’s right to know.

“Penn State and three other large Pennsylvania schools, unlike most other colleges and universities in the nation, are not subject to that state's open records laws. Because of this bizarre and inexcusable exemption, most records and documents at Penn State are not available to the press or public.

Simply put, the school was basically walled off to outsiders. A curious taxpayer or journalist would have a hard time learning anything that Penn State officials didn't want them to know. In turn, this moat around the university discouraged accountability from people like the president, athletic director and coach Joe Paterno.”

A piece at the Poynter website goes into more detail, breaking down how the system broke down, shielding Penn State and predator Jerry Sandusky. Then there is the unspoken idea that the corporate media could have hired its own lobbyists to make university records obtainable.

It’s something worth watching every legislative session here in Texas; lawmakers on the payroll of one special interest or another – recall exiled state Rep. Vicki Truitt’s bill to shield the names of public pensioners from scrutiny – will work to keep their client’s work from curious eyes.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Comments
Gritsforbreakfast
Monday, 07/23/2012 - 07:55AM

"Texas is graced with some of the nation’s best open records access."

This was true 20-25 years ago, when experts would routinely argue whether Texas' or Florida's law provided the most transparency among states. It is decidedly NOT true today, when Florida now outclasses us by a country mile and we're in the middle of the pack. Anyone who's used the open records act throughout that period has witnessed its radical diminution. Not as bad as described at Penn State, but IMO not nearly worthy of the laudatory tone adopted here.

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