A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Chrysler Corp. Loan Guarantee Board is subject to the requirements of the Federal Sunshine Act of 1976, which was designed to give the public greater access to information about government agencies.
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Barrington D. Parker means that the board must announce its meeting schedule publicly and maintain transcripts or electronic recordings on any meetings that are closed.
Parker noted, however, that the act doesn't require the board to hold open meetings or to disclose information about closed sessions. The Sunshine Act, like its predecessor, the Freedom of Information Act, contains a series of exemptions which could allow the board to refuse to disclose certain information, Parker said.
Last weekend the board conditionally approved $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees to Chrysler. The Board includes three voting members -- the secretary of the Treasury, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and the comptroller general -- and the secretaries of Labor and Transportation, who are nonvoting members.
The case was brought to the federal court by Ralph Nader's Public Citizens Litigation Group in behalf of Howard Symons, a staff attorney and lobbyist for the advocacy organization Congress Watch.
Parker rejected the government's argument that the Sunshine Act didn't apply to the board because its members were presidential appointees, before they took positions on the board Parker said.