Transparency is one of those warm and fuzzy words that all levels of government like to toss about. Just what is transparency? I would say that it all depends on who you are talking to. Should every little thing be out in public view? Are there some things that perhaps the general public just does not need to know? Again, it all depends on your perspective.
There are some micro-managing type A folks that probably would like to see a second by second accounting of what our government officials do. I disagree with that thought. We elect individuals to conduct the day to day business of our government and we need to let them do just that. On the other hand letting government officials decide what we the public needs to know or not know brings on situations like crashed hard drives and the current IRS issues going on in Washington DC.
Locally we have situations where we are allowed to know only a part of the story. For instance several months ago Judge Barkemeyer gave the Bryant Station Bridge to a local individual who had requested ownership of the bridge so that it could be moved to another location. While being warned that there might be issues that needed to be looked into Judge Barkemeyer said he did not care this is what he wanted to do and the bridge was going to be given to the individual making the request.
If you do not know the rest of the story you do not know that the County Attorney advised the Judge that it was illegal to give away county real property. It had to be put out for bid or auctioned off according to the law. True transparency would have required the Judge to come back to court and put in the minutes that what he had done was cancelled because it was against the law and he did not have the authority to do it.
Another example of transparency issues arises with personnel. As Judge I had an instance where an audit of a department showed the department head was not doing their job and was setting the county up for some real trouble. Since this individual served at the pleasure of the court they were offered the opportunity to retire, resign or be fired. The individual opted to retire so we left it at that. Should the options the court had given the individual have been made public? Was it necessary to inform the public the person was doing such a poor job that they would be fired if they did not elect to retire? In my opinion no, but others probably disagree.
What about Executive Sessions? The law allows for the Commissioners Court to go into Executive Session under certain circumstances. The circumstance under which the court retires to the Executive Session is made public but their discussion of the particulars of the issue that enabled the Executive Session is not. Transparency?
There are some things that the general public might not need to know, but how do you separate the plethora of information that occurs everyday at the local, state and federal level. It is utterly impossible to meet everyone's level of transparency and define what's important and what's not. For President Obama it is whatever he thinks is important, and for Judge Barkemeyer it is the same. Bottom line is that it depends on your opinion and like noses we all have one.