The Washington Post

Gansler offers ideas on making Md. government more ‘transparent’

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler attends a clam bake last week in Crisfield, Md. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler proposed several steps Wednesday to increase “transparency and accountability” in state government, including the creation of an inspector general to facilitate more access to public information.

Gansler (D), who plans to formally announce his 2014 bid for governor in September, shared his plans during a forum in a back room at Harry Browne’s, a popular hangout in Annapolis for legislators and lobbyists, where deals are often said to be cut.

“We didn’t want the irony of the location to be lost on you,” Gansler told a dozen good-government advocates and other invited guests who gathered around a table in the restaurant’s Grill Room.

Other steps proposed by Gansler included public disclosure of meetings that take place between state employees and outside parties during the regulatory process and a “transparency portal” to provide the public better access to state data over the Internet.

The event, which was open to the media, drew a rebuke from the rival Democratic campaign of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who sent two “trackers” to Harry Browne’s to record Gansler with hand-held cameras. Both were turned away at the door.

“The attorney general’s meeting about open meetings was closed to the public and literally held in an Annapolis back room,” said Brown campaign manager Justin Schall. “I applaud the attorney general for helping to enrich the definition of irony.”

Gansler said the need for reforms was highlighted by a recent “Corruption Risk Report Card” by the Center for Public Integrity and other groups on which Maryland received an overall grade of D- and ranked 40th among states.

Maryland received an F on several specific measures, including public access to information and legislative accountability.

“Those aren’t great grades,” Gansler said. “If my kid got those grades, they’d have a little bit of talking to.”

As envisioned by Gansler, the inspector general would be established in the state comptroller’s office. The duties of the office would include ensuring access to public information, monitoring complaints about access and conducting performance audits of state agencies.

Gansler said his plan to require public disclosure of meetings during the regulatory process was modeled after federal requirements. Under practice, there is no public record of such meetings in Maryland, which means the public does not know who is influencing the process, Gansler said.

Wednesday’s event was the third stop on a “Build Our Best Maryland” tour that Gansler has launched in advance of formally declaring he’s a candidate for governor. Two other Democrats — Brown and Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery) — have announced their bids.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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