Thursday, May 05, 2011

FOI: Ignorance means get out of jail free?

Or, actually, never go to jail.

The Holly Springs, S.C., fire commissioners who pretty clearly violated the state's freedom of information law and then were called to account for it in criminal court by a reporter (after the sheriff, prosecutor, etc., wouldn't take the case) were acquitted because they were ignorant.

But apparently not willfully so.

Their plea: We didn't really know about the FOIA law, so we can't be held to have willfully violated the law. The jury agreed.

The reporter, Jay King, is a lot more sanguine about this than I. Yep, these commissioners can't pull that excuse out of the bag anymore, but boy has this opened a hole the size of a truck in the law. Aside from the obvious jokes, ever known a public official who couldn't be willfully ignorant when the occasion called for it?

On the other hand ...

A victory in North Myrtle Beach because a judge told a state representative and the city that, no, just because you might be embarrassed is not a violation of privacy. Thus, a police tape of the legislator's wife threatening a police officer was opened to public scrutiny. As Circuit  Judge Benjamin Culbertson said,  “The public's right to know the activities of a police officer while on duty and the possible reasons for his discharge outweigh any of the defendants' rights to privacy.”

Seems like common sense.



At 5/10/11, 9:12 PM, Blogger vtuss said...

What happened to "Ignorance of the law excuses no one"?

At 5/11/11, 12:34 PM, Blogger Doug Fisher said...

We do things a bit differently down here in the swamps and sandhills ...


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