A model of open government and transparency Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Financing Authority is not. And given the public-be-damned secrecy under which it steadfastly operates, reasonable people could — and perhaps they should — assume nefarious activity is underfoot.
The authority, under the auspices of the equally transparency-bereft state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), was created a decade ago to allow state legislators to sign off on multimillion-dollar development projects. Just last fall it was tasked with distributing tens of millions of dollars in new grants from the $2.4 billion transportation bill. They're nothing more than a new version of WAMs, palm-greasing “walking-around money” now with the veneer of “oversight.”
As today's front-page story details, the Trib filed an open records request to examine emails between board members, legislators and officials of Gov. Tom Corbett's administration. We wanted to document any political deal-making. What we received was a Susquehanna Salute to public purpose — 167 pages of largely blacked-out records. So redaction-happy were DCED lawyers that they even deleted readily available public contact information.
Additionally, the DCED continues to play games by refusing to make public the applications of all grant requesters. That would be too burdensome, it says. But bear that burden it must, considering these public agencies are disbursing public dollars.
Time and chance might reveal all these secrets. But taxpayers have every right to know them. Now.
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