The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

September 18, 2013

Miller disappoints on U of I settlement

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s staff has issued numerous “sunshine advisories” during his long career as the state’s top law enforcement officer.

His message in an advisory issued in 2004 was straightforward: Settlements involving state and local government in Iowa are never secret.

Except, apparently, when Miller’s office does not want all that sunshine in the eyes of its clients. Of course, that is a problem, given the fact that those clients are part of state government.

Last week, Assistant Attorney General Jordan Esbrook urged District Judge Douglas Russell to ignore the 2004 sunshine advisory in evaluating a dispute over the University of Iowa delaying the release of such a settlement by about two years. The attorney general’s office is defending the university against legal action brought by The Associated Press.

The AP argues that the university violated Iowa’s public records law in delaying access to a resignation agreement signed by a former U of I surgeon, John Chaloupka.

The school bent over backward, with the attorney general’s blessings, to keep from the public a document showing that the doctor was stripped of key duties but allowed to keep his $380,000 salary for one year.

While the AP eventually obtained the resignation agreement, it is asking Judge Russell to rule that the university violated the law and must pay the AP’s legal fees.

Miller should practice what he preaches on transparency. His office is acting as though it’s protecting state government rather than protecting the interests of the 3 million Iowans represented by that government.

We find Miller’s position to be very disappointing.

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