Our viewpoint: Eco-devo secrecy a bad idea

State Rep. Anna Crook surely hasn't been hit with a case of amnesia. However, she has introduced a bad piece of legislation that suggests she's forgotten a significant government foul-up in her hometown of Clovis.

Crook, a Republican, introduced House Bill 592 to the Legislature, which would exempt activity related to economic development entities from the Inspection of Public Records Act until it's too late for the public to object.

IPRA serves as the public's eyes on how public agencies conduct the public's business.

HB 592 runs counter to the spirit of IPRA, if not the letter of the law.

Why should Clovis residents have a keen interest in this legislation? Five words sum it up: Beauty Health and Science Innovations.

BHSI came to Clovis with grand promises to create jobs and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. It was attracted to Clovis because of $1.8 million in municipal economic development money that went to the company in return for its coming to eastern New Mexico.

But by late 2012, BHSI's efforts had fallen apart. The city's investment in BHSI produced nothing. The public's money essentially has been flushed away.

And now Crook wants to give government more secrecy in which to operate? Give us a break.

The BHSI effort to do business in Clovis was already convoluted, confusing and complicated. Crook's bill will only make it easier for future questionable business ventures to escape public scrutiny.

HB 592 would essentially exempt economic development departments' actions from IPRA laws until decisions are already in the hands of city or county commissions.

By then it's too late for objective observers to get involved.

Publicly funded economic development agencies are by definition an arm of local governments. Therefore, IPRA's requirements must place them under full public review.

IPRA allows public inspection of all relevant communication not covered under the state's sunshine laws. The state is quite specific on which items are kept from public view: personnel issues, pending litigation and real estate transactions. Everything else belongs to the public.

To exempt deals orchestrated by economic development agencies from the same kind of scrutiny allowed for all other local government entities impinges on the public trust.

House Bill 592 must not become law.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.

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