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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Why This Access Stuff Is Important....

If you need a TEXTBOOK example of the damage done by government secrecy, look no further than this: a tiny little change in Texas law that allowed police to hide their backgrounds. See in this editorial the damage done:

In San Antonio, however, no one can look at records that tell you a civil servant's qualifications for his or her job. As Express-News staff writers Guillermo Contreras and Todd Bensman reported, that's because of the obscure provisions of a misguided law passed by the Legislature back in 1987.

The police unions that lobbied for Section 143.089 of the Local Government Code say it protects police officers from becoming targets of character assassination by rumor and innuendo. And clearly there's a level of credibility that should be met before an issue in a personnel file becomes a matter of public interest.

In practice, however, Section 143.089 is used to shield unscrupulous behavior from public view. In the case of former police officer Joseph Evans, the Express-News reported, it prevents the public from finding out how he was able to obtain a job with the San Antonio Police Department despite a drunken driving conviction, attempting to hide an arrest for criminal trespass, a hit-and-run conviction and a prior SAPD rejection of his application.

The public only knows those details because they became accessible during Evans' federal trial on charges related to methamphetamine trafficking. The public doesn't know why former Deputy Chief Gilbert Sandoval overrode the recommendations of SAPD screeners not to hire Evans in the first place.

More here.

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