EDITORIAL: Transparency, the bedrock of good government
- According to the governor, nothing will be served by releasing the inspector general’s report.
- But transparency is the bedrock of good government.
- Good, bad or ugly — the public deserves to know what elected officials are doing on our behalf.
Rarely do we agree with state Sen. Scott Wagner, the York County Republican who acknowledges he’s more concerned his name is spelled correctly than how his often-off-the-wall comments are received.
Once described by the state GOP vice chairwoman as "our Donald Trump," the brash businessman is seeking his party’s nomination for governor this year, and he’s widely considered the favorite in a four-candidate race.
Frankly, the thought of a Gov. Wagner is daunting, but in this particular case, we are in complete agreement with him:
Gov. Tom Wolf should release the results of a publicly funded state inspector general investigation into Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, a fellow Democrat who faced heavy criticism last year following reports he and his wife mistreated state troopers assigned to protect them.
More:Wagner calls for transparency from Wolf, inspector general
And if Wolf continues to keep the report under wraps, the Legislature should step in and take the matter out of his hands.
We’re disappointed it has come to this, considering governmental transparency was a key plank of Wolf’s 2014 campaign for governor.
The report he’s withholding came after the Inspector General’s Office investigated Stack over claims he and his wife verbally abused state police troopers assigned to protect them and the people who work in the lieutenant governor’s official residence.
Those allegations prompted Wolf to remove the Stacks' security details in April, shocking Capitol observers. Lieutenant governors have had state police protection for decades in Pennsylvania.
According to the governor, nothing will be served by releasing the inspector general’s report.
"My concern back in the summer was to make sure the employees — the police officers and the staff out at the residence — were safe and were not in a bad job situation," Wolf has said. "And I took care of that. I don't think anything will be served by piling on top of that."
Noting the Inspector General's Office never released a report or summary of any investigations before Wolf took office, his press secretary, J.J. Abbott, said "the insinuation that Gov. Wolf is using OIG different than it ever has been is just wrong."
Yet, the governor last year did release an inspector general’s report that found evidence of cheating among cadets at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy.
And last summer, Wolf signed Senate Bill 527, which established the Inspector General’s Office as a permanent Cabinet-level post independent from the governor's purview.
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He thanked lawmakers for passing the bill so the office could serve “taxpayers with efficiency and accountability.”
Now, however, Wolf appears to be backtracking, and Wagner is right to pounce.
“The bottom line is this: If taxpayer resources are used to conduct an investigation, then taxpayers have a right to see the findings,” the senator said. “If you don’t want something to go public, then do not use taxpayer resources to pay for an investigation.”
The one-term state senator said he will be writing a bill to make all of the inspector general’s investigative findings open to the public.
Wagner's bill, if passed, also would require the publication of all reports issued by the inspector general during 2017, which would include the Stack investigation.
We hope he follows through with his legislation and his fellow lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — support it.
Transparency is the bedrock of good government.
Good, bad or ugly — the public deserves to know what elected officials are doing on our behalf and with our tax dollars.
By resisting calls to release the Stack report, Wolf has accomplished a rarity.
He’s made Scott Wagner sound like the voice of reason.