Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Government transparency during Sunshine Week

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Mar 13, 2015 1:35 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, March 16, 2015:

It is Sunshine Week - a time to bring awareness to the public about the importance of government transparency and the potential dangers of government business conducted in secret.

Pennsylvania had one of the nation's weakest right-to-know laws up until a few years ago.  Then in 2008 historic legislation was enacted that had an significant impact.

A major change was everything in government was considered open to the public.  If the government agency or official disagreed, the onus was on them to prove it.

The state Office of Open Records was also created to act as an appeals board for those who have filed right-to-know requests that have been denied.

The agency's first director Terry Mutchler appears on Monday's Smart Talk.

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Terry Mutchler

Mutcher's apperance comes at a time when more changes in the right-to-know law are being considered by the legislature.

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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-16 08:16

    A listener writes:

    Recently the City of Lancaster announced a $500,000 no-bid, no competition contract with a firm to establish internet service, all of which was discussed, designed, and decided in secrecy.

    The idea of public internet access is fantastic, but in the current legal framework for third class cities, they were able to do this without city council debate or approval, and without public comment. The details are still unknown.

    By excluding the public from the decision-making process, the city 1) missed the benefit of public comment, 2) denied regular people their right to voice concerns, opposition, ideas, or support, 3) undermined basic democratic principles of transparency, accountability, and oversight--all legally--but when given the option they chose secrecy.

  • Lisa img 2015-03-16 08:40

    What state entity do you go to when you have a problem with local township government holding private meetings? Our local 2nd class township supervisors, we have 3, often meet in private meetings. For at least the last 6 months they have held an executive session prior to every monthly board meeting (usually without the township solicitor) and sometimes again after the meeting (with the solicitor). They admit to exchanging emails about items that will come up at meetings. They never discuss anything that is up for a vote among themselves, but they will address public comments. State ethics commission has said it is not their responsibility to investigate and the open records office only seems to be interested in investigating records not being turned over. Our local newspaper has even reported one of their illegal executive session meetings (held with a developer's attorney, but not the township's). Where do we go to get action taken against our township supervisors?

    • Lisa img 2015-03-16 08:49

      To clarify, we do not believe that they are actually discussing allowed topics for executive session, but are working out deals with developers to ensure that developments that are controversial (and also beneficial to at least one of our supervisor's friends) get approved.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2015-03-16 08:43

    Rob emails:

    I frequently read that our town council will have executive meetings in the middle of meetings to privately discuss matters usually justified as personal matters. Is this legal?

  • jjones img 2015-03-16 09:05

    What a great show! Smart talk - thank you! Terry Mutchler's clear, concise, and cogent explanations, opinions are, indeed, a breath of fresh air. We need more people like her who come from private enterprise to work in government, and then return to private work - as long, of course, as we continue to have excellent sunshine laws, and continue to improve upon them.

  • George Spiess img 2015-03-18 14:43

    to caller Dave: Please contact our office concerning your unsuccessful attempt to file an appeal. You can e-mail me at: RA-OpenRecords@pa.gov. Please reference Smart Talk in your post. thx.