No Freedom of Information in S.C.
By Paul Gable
Despite the state freedom of information law requiring public records be released to persons requesting them at the “lowest possible cost,” such is hardly ever the case in South Carolina.
Public agencies whose ethically challenged politicians and appointed public officials excel in backroom deals, conflicts of interest and downright gouging of the public purse are not about to turn over information to the public that could possibly shed light on these activities.
Earlier this year, when S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis tried to get investment records from the S.C. Retirement Systems Investment Commission, of which Loftis is a commissioner, the good ole boys tried to get him thrown off the commission board.
The Nerve recently published a report of the high cost of obtaining freedom of information records from various agencies around the state.
This is not about public agencies “gouging” or even making a profit from providing public records to the public. This is about making the cost high enough that people will walk away from their requests, thereby keeping the records secret.
It is not by chance that South Carolina scored worst in the nation for public access to government information by the independent Center for Public Integrity this year. This is the goal of public agencies in the state.
A democracy does not work in an atmosphere of secrecy. Our Founding Fathers understood that democracy requires a well-informed public who can act as a check on government excess and make intelligent decisions in the voting booth.
What is preferred in South Carolina is an oligarchy where a “privileged few” (the good ole boys) control the power in the decision making process.
As early as the Fourth Century BC, the Greeks felt a need to devise systems to restore democracy from oligarchical coups that had grabbed power in this most ancient of democratic systems.
It is no different in South Carolina today. Until the citizens demand reform and elect public officials dedicated to it, the good ole boy system will continue to prevail in South Carolina at the expense of the overwhelming majority of citizens.
Link to The Nerve article: http://thenerve.org/news/2012/10/01/FOIA-fees/