Public officials using pandemic as excuse to withhold vital public information

Adam Laxalt of Fox News, May 20, 2020, writes that freedom of information laws are vital during the pandemic in holding public officials accountable. He cites the case of Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer who used emergency powers to turn down a request for information about a no-bid contract awarded to Democratic political data firm to conduct coronavirus-contact-tracing surveys.

In Salt lake City, reporter Jay Evensen, Deseret News, May 19, 2020, complains that the public was barred from learning the names of businesses requiring sick employees to report for work thus spreading the virus. Officials cited privacy concerns to hide other information that should be made available. “Armed with knowledge, writes Evensen, “an enterprising reporter or a private government watchdog agency can make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, that employees at offending companies are now treated properly and that no one is receiving political favors.”

Now a number of Utah media outlets are demanding that Utah County release the names of the businesses who forced workers who tested positive for the virus to return to work. In denying to identify the businesses, the county cited a Utah privacy law that prevented them from naming the businesses to prevent the public from discovering the names of employees, an invasion of privacy. (Standard-Examiner, May 20, 2020, by Connor Richards)

For related FAC coverage, click here and here.

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