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EDITORIAL L.A. CONFIDENTIAL WILL THE COUNTY CEO-OCRACY BE HONEST AND TRANSPARENT?

LOS Angeles County supervisors decided, rightly, last month that their government was lacking accountability. So they created a system that would make someone accountable once and for all -- just not them.

That someone is the new county CEO, a bureaucratic muckety-muck who will make up to $399,000 a year in a position temporarily filled by the county's retired top administrator, David Janssen. The new CEO, still to be named, will get five deputy muckety-mucks to boss around, and the buck, as it were, will stop with the whole collective bunch.

The plan -- despite letting the supervisors off the hook and tying up more taxpayer money in payroll -- is, on balance, a good one. Someone in the county needs to have the power and responsibility to bring order to the county government, since the supervisors won't.

But open-government advocates have raised a valid concern.

Under the old regime, in which the supervisors made all the decisions, the public was guaranteed some knowledge of what was going on. That's because the supes are subject to the state's Brown Act, which requires elected officials' meetings to be open to the public.

But a CEO isn't an elected official. Nor are deputy muckety-mucks. They're bureaucrats. Bureaucrats can get together whenever they want, without telling anyone, and without being open to the public.

And a lack of public scrutiny tends to lead to increased corruption.

The supes assure us this is not a problem. They even got the county counsel to draw up a report explaining exactly how the CEO will be subject to public scrutiny.

There's just one problem: The report's been marked "confidential," so none of us can see it.

How's that for open government?

The counsel explains that this is just standard process, attorney-client privilege and whatnot. But the "clients" in this case -- our supervisors -- have the right to waive that privilege. They also have a moral obligation to let the public know what they're up to.

This is especially true because the supes will be evaluating the counsel's report for the next two weeks, before voting on a package of openness requirements for the CEO-ocracy.

The public deserves to see the report that will be the basis of their decision. And the supes' willingness to disclose the report will be a good measure of how serious -- or not -- they are about keeping county government honest.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 7, 2007
Words:395
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