Trust compromised by feds’ arrogance
Apparently, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell believes the laws of Colorado can be ignored when she and her Washington, D.C., retinue arrive in town — that our laws don’t apply to Beltway bigwigs.
That’s the only message one can glean from Jewell’s refusal to allow a reporter from the Craig Daily Press to attend a meeting Tuesday in Craig that included Jewell, three Moffat County commissioners, Gov. John Hickenlooper and other officials.
Because the three commissioners were present, the gathering clearly qualified as a public meeting under Colorado’s Open Meetings Law, and therefore should have been open both to members of the press and the public. But members of Jewell’s entourage twice escorted Daily Press reporter Erin Fenner out of the meeting room and said it was a private meeting, even after County Commissioner John Kincaid told Fenner’s editor the meeting was open. A radio reporter was also denied access.
It appears only those with press credentials were kept out.
Later, Daily Press Managing Editor Noelle Leavitt Riley spoke to Jewell in person as the secretary was preparing to leave, and Jewell reiterated that the meeting with the commissioners and other public officials was closed.
Jewell and her staff can legally have all the closed-door meetings they want. But Tuesday’s meeting was covered by the state law. Moffat County gave appropriate notice that it was scheduled and open to the public. Jewell has no authority to overrule them and declare a meeting closed that legally must be open.
Wednesday on this page, we wrote some appreciative words about Jewell’s willingness to visit western Colorado and view first-hand issues related to the greater sage grouse. We meant those words. But any trust Jewell may have earned all but evaporated with her insistence that the later meeting with area officials be closed to the media.
What was so critical that it could only be discussed behind closed doors? Sage grouse aren’t a matter of national security.
The much larger issue is the question of trust and how much we should place in our federal government.
Jewell’s actions are not unique in this administration. Candidate Barack Obama pledged to have the most transparent administration in history. Instead, the Obama administration has proved to be one of the most opaque.
From the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious gun scandal, to the State Department on Benghazi, to NSA spying, to enrollment details for Obamacare, to press access to the president, the administration has repeatedly sought to hide and obscure information, even while they asked for our trust.
That trust has rapidly decayed, but we had hoped Jewell would usher in a more open attitude for her department.
Instead, with her disregard for Colorado law, she has fed the sometimes-overwrought fear of the federal government that exists in western Colorado. She owes the Craig Daily Press, the county commissioners and all Coloradans an apology.