Q-and-A with Miss. Attorney General Jim Hood

JACKSON, Miss. — Here’s a quick interview with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, about openness in government:
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Q: What does transparency in government mean to you?

A: “It’s the people’s business and they deserve to see every single aspect of what goes in their business. Any type of contracts that are entered into, any type of meetings. Of course, they can’t sit and listen to every phone conversation someone has, but anything that is recorded as to what a conversation was, pretty much anything that is documented that state employees do. The exception is what we often do as far as the law enforcement (prosecutorial) aspect and you have to keep that secret until the case is indicted and then, at that point, you can only talk about what becomes a public record, what is actually filed with the circuit clerk. And then you can’t talk about aspects of the case until they plead guilty… At that point, my policy is that it becomes open and that you file it with the exception of redacting confidential informants’ names.”

Q: When should access be limited or denied?

A: “We’ve tried to make sure that any transactions that belong to the state — that belong to the people — should be disclosed. Now when it should not are situations,I think there are 11 under the Open Meetings Act, in which the boards and commissions, whatever, are allowed to go back into executive session only to discuss and then they have to come back out and disclose what their vote was and so forth. So, those in statute that are established should be protected. I think we’ve got some pretty good laws on the books in Mississippi as far as what disclosure is through government…. I think the enforcement aspect and the public education aspect is where we have had some problems. I say problems, it is really where we need improvement.”

Clarion-Ledger
1/27/10