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Our Opinion: Parson's pledge on transparency refreshing

Our Opinion: Parson's pledge on transparency refreshing

June 27th, 2018 by News Tribune in Opinion

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is seeking a fresh start, working hard to build trust, open the lines of communication and generally distinguish himself from his scandal-plagued predecessor, Eric Greitens.

One of Parson's efforts at increased transparency is a promise not to continue blocking certain people on social media. It's something Greitens and some other politicians have been criticized for in the past. Parson has been one of those politicians.

We commend him for the change in policy.

And there's another, much-discussed policy from Greitens' administration that should be abandoned — using Confide and other smartphone applications that erase messages as soon as they're read.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Josh Hawley found the administration broke no laws in its use of Confide. But the AG discouraged using the app for public business. We previously stated our agreement, saying public servants should have nothing to hide and shouldn't need to use secrecy apps.

The problem with such secrecy apps is they allow representatives of our government to do the public's business in private. The potential exists to make decisions about governing and about our tax dollars without our input or possibly without our knowledge.

Greitens' office has denied it has used the app for state business.

But an attorney sued Greitens and his former staff, saying they violated the state's open records law. In an Associated Press story, that attorney said recently uncovered texts show two former employees used the message-deleting app to communicate about state policy.

State law needs to be clarified to ban government workers — from rank-and-file state employees to the governor — from hiding public business behind such new technologies.

But until that happens, officeholders and candidates for public office should pledge to do the state's business in public, and particularly pledge not to use apps such as Confide.

Missouri's open meetings and records law allows narrow exceptions for governmental workings to be kept private. We should honor that, while demanding the vast majority of work done by our government — on our behalf and with our tax dollars — be done out in the open.