Editorial: We Need Less Gray

 


Nebraska’s open records statutes are designed to tread the treacherous ground between the public’s right to know and a governmental entity’s need for privacy in certain circumstances.

It is a narrow and tricky path, indeed.

The state prevents city officials from releasing the reason Kimball’s economic development director was sacked last week. Indeed, they cannot even confirm that City Administrator Daniel Ortiz dismissed Larissa Binod from the post she held for just over a year.

This seems a bit strict.

We understand the need to keep probationary warnings or other notes in a personnel file from public view when no criminal offense is involved. Yet there may in some future case be an instance where a city or county employee’s error not only leads to dismissal, but also a debt left for community taxpayers to pay off or elected officials to struggle against. On the other hand, what if the termination resulted from a more petulant personal conflict?

The public, in such instances, should have the right to pry.

We are not at all suggesting any such transgressions in Binod’s case. She remains committed to Kimball’s future and will continue to work for its betterment with the Recycle Center and other organizations. But with the law drawing city official’s lips tight, our attention necessarily turned toward the fuzziness of the boundary between the public’s right to know and an individual’s right to privacy.

Those in the employment of state or local government are entitled to privacy. At the same time, however, their comings and goings affect local residents, who may need to be informed of an issue cloaked by the current law.

Limiting their ability to discuss issues on a case by case basis makes it far too easy for government to keep the general population in the dark.

 

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