May 8, 2009

AR doesn't want you to know if elected officials have a criminal background

Arkansas State Representative Dan Greenberg has an interesting idea for increased state transparency: make criminal background checks of public officials open to the public for a fee.

To state the obvious, public officials occupy a unique position of power and trust. I do not think that a criminal record is in all cases a disqualifier for public service, but I do think it is something that the public is entitled to know. Some criminals are repeat offenders, and I suspect that the everyday person thinks that having open criminal records is good public policy.

But of course, not everybody agreed. The Attorney General felt the bill "granted too much access by too many people." And we couldn't have that, could we?

In the end, the bill was defeated by a vote of 33-56. Apparently opening up the criminal records of public officials was too big a pill to swallow.