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Natural gas authority should do more than 'try' to live within law

Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Government should operate in the open.

That's what the law says, and the law is right.

Alaska's policy says government units ''exist to aid the conduct of the people's business; it is the intent of the law that actions of those units be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly; the people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them; the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know; the people's right to remain informed shall be protected so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. ...''

Good policy. The policy adds that the state open meetings law is meant to be interpreted narrowly. That means, when in doubt, go for openness.

Some members of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority board think they ought to be exempt from the state's open meetings law.

Bunk.

They ought to obey the law it's easy enough. The law allows for executive sessions to discuss legal matters, contracts and finances there are specific exemptions allowing government bodies to meet privately when they really must.

Nevertheless, some board members reportedly have called obeying the law ''wasting time,'' saying they'd be ''handcuffed'' if they aren't ''able'' to do things they want.

Nonsense. Following the law isn't very difficult as only one board member, Dan Sullivan, had the gumption to point out.

When other board members were grumbling about being treated as if they were only as good as other Alaskans, and not above us, the assistant attorney general assigned to work with them advised the board members to try to live within the laws, telling them they are the only board in the state to seek being declared above them.

We appreciate his need to be circumspect in his phrasing, but we aren't similarly constrained.

The Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority board shouldn't ''try'' to live within the law.

It should just do it.

Ketchikan Daily News

Jan. 2



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