Our system of government by the people for the people does not work when government officials refuse to keep the people informed about their actions.
We elect people to represent us, and we expect the people we elect to act in our collective best interests. We expect them to spend taxpayer dollars wisely. We expect accountability.
Above all, we expect that our leaders will keep us apprised. We expect honest and open dealings — transparency — so we know what our leaders are doing with our money.
It should be more than a little alarming when public officials openly admit they will not answer questions about official policies or programs.
This week, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer told the Eagle directly he would not answer our questions about the authority of people he has deputized. This is extremely problematic and goes against the tenets of our open system of government.
How can the people hold the government accountable and ensure the public systems are working for the people when they don’t know what’s going on?
It should be especially concerning when the questions revolve around the rights and responsibilities of people who carry badges and guns on behalf of the county — and even more so when those people are not trained and certified by Oregon’s police licensing agency, as is the case with the latest special deputies the Eagle inquired about.
Should people treat these special deputies as if they are certified law enforcement officers, or are they in a different class? If a special deputy interacts with a citizen, what authority do they have? These are routine questions, and everyone should want to know the answers. The people deserve to know.
The sheriff refused to even state whether there were other special deputies beyond the two county commissioners the Eagle inquired about. At this point, we only know there are an unknown number of people — with badges — who have unknown authority in the community. The people deserve to know these things.
The sheriff said it has been his policy for some time to not respond to any media requests. He said the coverage has not been fair or accurate.
Yet, the sheriff has not reached out to the Eagle about any inaccuracies. If something is inaccurate, we want to know about it. We don’t claim to be perfect and may get something wrong from time to time, but if someone points out something that is inaccurate, we will always get it fixed as quickly as possible.
It’s easy to blame the media without offering any specifics on what they got wrong. It helps politicians cast blame and direct attention elsewhere. But it does not inform the people.
Refusing to answer questions about public business is about as far from the ideals upon which our country was founded as one can get. The people deserve better.