TO: Luzerne County Council members
FROM: The Times Leader
DATE: Oct. 16, 2012
RE: Your emails
Let's see them – all those emails that you exchange with county Manager Robert Lawton, the man who oversees the county government's daily operations and whom no council member should try to influence.
Let's put that text in front of more eyes. Post every message, except maybe those about pending litigation, on a website for county residents and the world to see. After all, you were elected by the public to do the public's business, so the public should be able to monitor what you deem important and have to say about it, right?
It's not as if this move requires much expense or even innovation. Since 2005, the government of Sarasota County, Fla., has provided online access to certain officials' emails, searchable by timeframe or topic.
Luzerne County desperately needs to apply this same spirit of openness to its startup council-manager form of government – approved in 2010 by a majority of voters who wanted to break from the county's corruption-ridden, backroom-dealing past.
Granted, the posting of emails isn't nearly a comprehensive, or even foolproof, method for ensuring that elected leaders like you and those to follow in future years will strive to act aboveboard. But it could reduce headaches for the county manager and offer greater convenience for government watchdogs, while potentially cutting down on the number of right-to-know requests that today overwhelm county workers.
Moreover, this email setup would serve as a visible reminder to you and everyone in Luzerne County that government decisions should be hashed out in public, not by way of cellphone calls, restaurant rendezvous or other veiled means that subvert democracy.