01/06/10 — The public's eyes: Want more trust? Make sure that your dealings are in the open.

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The public's eyes: Want more trust? Make sure that your dealings are in the open.

It is not fair, but the reality is, when there is corruption in one level of government -- especially widespread corruption -- it is difficult for citizens not to look with skepticism on all those who earn their living as public officials.

With all the time and money that has been spent on cleaning up the mess in Raleigh over the past couple of years, it is no wonder that residents might fear the worst when they look at their own representatives.

So County Manager Lee Smith's admonition to his staff and others to make sure there is no reason to question their dealings and that they answer questions as honestly as possible is good advice.

There are more honest than dishonest people who serve the public, but it is the others who make the going so difficult.

But there is one factor that public officials and others should consider if they truly do want to ensure they will get and keep the trust of the communities they serve.

Do all your business in public -- no meetings with just enough people to avoid the open government laws, and no back door negotiations that make a public vote a mere formality.

The more people see their government in action and watch business being conducted in front of their eyes, the more they are going to trust that they are getting the whole story.

There are reasons for secrecy -- contracts, some personnel -- but in some cases those loopholes become the excuse for misuse.

Government officials who are doing business the right way have no reason to fear public scrutiny. In fact, they should welcome public participation in the process.

Published in Editorials on January 6, 2010 10:44 AM