To paraphrase George Orwell's "1984," Big Brother is listening ... or at least he soon could be in Great Britain.
British authorities have what is being called an "ambitious" bill to track all electronic conversations of every single British resident. The proposed law would collect detailed information of all communications of Britons, which the government maintains is necessary to fight terrorism and crime.
In an obvious attempt to bypass privacy laws, Home Secretary Theresa May contends the program would not listen in on the conversations. But data mining experts say that even electronic communications logs can yield detailed insights about people's lives at the stroke of a key.
As scary as the U.S. Patriot Act is, this breach of privacy and personal rights goes far beyond scary ... and reaches to totalitarian control. Apparent the Brits have decided 2012 is the right time to start enacting "1984" philosophy.
Do the Wood County commissioners fail to fully fulfill the requirements pertaining to giving advance notice to the public about what they will discuss at a meeting?
Harry Deitzler, a former county prosecutor, former Charleston City Council member and a candidate for Wood County commissioner, contends the commission constantly violates the state's open meeting laws.
In a email to The News and Sentinel, Deitzler states:
"Please see the commission agenda below - this type of hidden government action has been a pebble in my shoe since day one. The county commission abstractly lists '1. Contribution Requests' on its agenda. No time is specified for the public discussion. There is no description of who is asking for what, nor the amount requested.
"No other public body would have the arrogance to try and sneak giveaways past public debate in that manner. This is a total sham when it comes to public notice regarding what they intend to do with our tax dollars. I seriously doubt that it complies with the public meetings notice requirements either.
"I hear loud and clear the song and dance 'We've always done it that way,' and I don't buy it. This is nothing but a continuation of (a former commissioner's) practices of secretly using giveaways of public money to campaign for re-election. (His) practice was, and (Deitzler's opponent) Blair Couch's practice is, to get the checks, then personally give them to the outside agency or Lions Club or airplane club or whatever in an election year.
"It's wrong to do that, it is a blatant misuse of tax dollars, and you all know it."
While I tend to agree with Deitzler that a more complete agenda should be provided to the public, if Deitzler really wants to make a point about how the public isn't being served by the commission's agenda I encourage him to fire his own bullets and file suit!
Deitzler also has maintained for many months that commissioners wait until reporters are out of earshot to discuss pertinent county business that should be presented in the light of day. Most recently, Deitzler maintains the commissioners discussed giving raises to county employees when reporters were out of the room. It should be noted that no mention of the discussion appeared on the agenda.
It also should be noted, Deitzler was not at the county commission meeting when the alleged discussion occurred, which makes me wonder how and/or from whom he got the information.
Again, if the commissioners are discussing county business that isn't on the agenda and out of the earshot of the public, they need to cease such improper, if not illegal, activity before legal ramifications cost the county money.
It's one thing for Deitzler to point a finger, it's another to present evidence in a court of law.
Unfortunately, it's nothing new for public bodies to attempt everything they can to skirt the Open Meetings law. Let's hope the county commission isn't following that distasteful pattern.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org