Reilly no friend of 'Sunshine'

Today's news that Attorney General (and Gov. wannabe) Tom Reilly signed a gag order on himself about the leaks in the Tip O'Neill Tunnel really has me mad. A pattern is forming that Reilly is no friend of "Sunshine" laws, so-called because they guarantee public records will be available to the public. The federal Freedom of Information Act is the cornerstone and the several states have adopted their own versions as well.

Recent stories about Reilly have me worried that he will seek to undermine the public records laws in this state, especially as there is a fear culture building that these records will be used for identity theft. Indeed, certain public paper trails can lead to all kinds of personal information used for online and telephone account access, but changes need to be made in exactly how detailed the information is in these records and the type of identifying information used by financial and medical institutions. But I digress.

The Herald has a good story today, even quoting two of its former staff reporters (Reilly flack Dave Guarino and Romney mouthguard Eric Fehrnstrom) who are at odds over the philosophy of Reilly's agreement to gag himself on the leaks in the Tip O'Neill tunnel. As someone who uses the tunnel nearly every day, I don't want any secrecy about the tunnel. I see the water falling from the ceiling. I see the unfinished emergency exits. I see it all.

The story says that the gag order is for five years, and covers Reilly, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and Big Dig contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff. All three parties must agree before releasing any information. In my decade and a half as a spectator in the sport of politics, this seems highly unusual. As top cop, Reilly should understand the public's right to know, especially if public safety is at stake.

Even the state's supervisor of public records Alan Cote is frustrated with Reilly in this story because he is apparently not cooperating with Cote's opinions.

These incidents and Reilly's past actions in the case of two teenage girls killed in a car accident, where he overruled Worcester DA John Conti and concealed a report about the accident, lead me to believe Reilly's goal is to be on a "need to know" basis with the general public. It's understandable given that he's a career prosecutor. He knows that too much public scrutiny can jeopardize proceedings. In criminal cases, it can taint a jury pool, for example. But most politicians (and Reilly told the Boston Chamber of Commerce he wasn't a politician) err on the side of disclosure. They just hold their noses when they say they believe in the freedom of information.

Boston Crazy Driving has remained decidedly unpolitical, so I tread very carefully here. If there is one time I would like to see a candidate flip-flop on an issue, it's this one. Reilly should reverse himself in his apparent opinion that public information is for his eyes only. And the news that he has appealed the ruling that former Senate President William Bulger can earn a higher pension doesn't impress me because everyone likes to kick the Bulgers these days. Reilly hadn't yet earned my vote, but after reading about the gag order I've firmly decided not to vote for him.


Post a Comment