A story that ran in The Marietta Times Wednesday about Marietta Mayor-elect Joe Matthew's refusal to provide names of city job applicants, in violation of Ohio law, drew support for Matthews from some readers who said the information should remain private and Matthews did nothing wrong.
We think those people may be missing the big picture.
Was it a big deal that the names of these particular people applying for a public job can't run in the paper? Maybe not.
What is a big deal is a past and future mayor either being ignorant of Ohio law or willfully choosing to ignore it and do as he pleases.
Matthews, and other public officials, can't choose to follow only the laws that suit them and Matthews can't choose to be a public official when it benefits him and to claim he's not one when it becomes inconvenient.
Matthews had two arguments for not releasing the names of those who applied to work for the city of Marietta. One, he said he was not yet a public official until Jan. 1 and two, he said he was worried the applicants could lose their current jobs if their employers find out they've applied.
To the first argument, if Matthews doesn't want to handle public business before taking office then he shouldn't have advertised public positions and handled the process. He inserted himself into public matters.
To the second argument, those who apply for public jobs should know that it is public information and weigh potential risk accordingly. Again, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Also, it would be illegal for an employer to fire someone because they had applied for another job.
If people think those things should be private and protected, the law is what needs to change. There is already a list of exceptions to the public record laws in the state that, with compelling argument, could be amended. Those elected to office shouldn't just be allowed to get a pass on following a law because they don't agree with it.
We wonder how people would feel if Matthews refused to release other public documents while in office that may be of more interest to them than the job applicants. What if it related to a city investigation or city finances? Should it be kept confidential if the mayor is concerned about some possible, unintended, completely hypothetical consequence releasing it could have?
Government needs to be as open and transparent as possible so that the people funding it know what is going on.
We should all be concerned when that isn't happening.