New Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has several ideas in his 2011 legislative package. The state’s top lawyer he’s pushing to strengthen the state’s sunshine laws. Olens also wants to revise the state Open Records Act and restructure the Open Meetings Act.
We say these are worthy targets. They are aimed at keeping governments honest, and their actions transparent, and that’s the way it should be.
The people who do the people’s business ought to want to make sure that their discussions and votes are in the public domain for all the taxpayers to see. Unless you can attend the meetings, and who can do that all the time, the news media is the eyes and ears of the public in these matters.
Therefore, government agencies need to maintain a spirit of cooperation with news media. Most do, but sometimes, some of them don’t put much faith in the public’s right to know.
The new AG wants to raise fines for violating the open records act from $100 to $1,000. We hope that all government agencies pay attention to this issue. They are entrusted with the public’s trust.
Crackdown needed on prisoner’s fraud
As the state and federal governments struggle to balance their budgets with hiring freezes, furloughs and big cuts, we find out that thousands of inmates including many in Georgia are scamming the government with fraudulent income tax returns.
That’s right, from inside the very prisons we are paying to house these crooks, they are filing tax returns and getting million of dollars they don’t deserve. Al Manni may have put it best:
“Lord have mercy, it’s unthinkable. In my opinion, it’s unthinkable in this information age that we live in and how could this possible.”
We agree with Al — it’s unthinkable. Shame on the crooks for doing it and shame on the government for letting it happen.
It seems this has been going on for years and it was difficult to stop because of government rules about taxpayer ID. Hopefully now they have corrected the problem with the tax fraud act of 2008.
We agree inmates should be treated humanely, but aren’t we carrying it bit too far when we give them so much freedom that they defraud the government and take taxpayer money from inside the prisons?
We don’t know how many hundreds of millions of dollars these inmates were able to steal over the years. A recent government crackdown saved $3.6 million in Georgia prisoner tax fraud and $130 million nationwide. It’s about time.
Written by Jim Wilcox, general manager of WALB.