I'd be remiss if I didn't write here about South Dakota earning an improved grade in the transparency of access to its state financial records. In case you didn't hear, we got a B+ by U.S. PIRG.

[I wrote a little on it for the paper this week. Read it here and find links to the report and last year's coverage.]

And the report is right on — South Dakota is doing better on transparency of state financial records. If you want to know where it can improve on that category, head on over to Bob Mercer's blog on it. And improvements made here would, of course, be a great benefit to citizens and taxpayers.

But financial transparency hasn't been the focus of this blog, precisely because South Dakota is doing OK there. As a state, our biggest open records problems exist elsewhere.

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Our list of records kept secret includes: police reports, 911 call transcripts, autopsy records, emails and correspondence between state officials, the schedules of public figures like the governor and mayors. Click the links and you'll see that we've written on many of these.

It was heartening this year to see the Legislature and governor take baby steps toward addressing two non-financial records issues: mandating that police logs are open record and opening up the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

But we've got a long ways to go. Autopsy records have uncovered medical errors, physician discipline problems and instances of painkiller abuse. Police incident records and 911 call transcripts allow the public to examine the work of law enforcement and can uncover fraud and poor work. It wasn't until emails and other documents were leaked to the Journal that we learned about a Box Elder chief police who apparently acted inappropriately toward women and the extent of financial troubles that city was having.

Now that our lawmakers and governor have done their job in making state financial records more transparent, perhaps they will turn their eye to some of these areas. Let's see how many B+'s the Rushmore State can rack up. 

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Contact Joe O'Sullivan at 394-8414 or joe.osullivan@rapidcityjournal.com

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