Without hearings or discussion, the D.C. Council has rewritten the law to weaken key protections for the independence of the Office of Open Government and its director. The office enforces open meeting requirements for boards and commissions and investigates complaints about access to public records. The changes appear to shift power in line with agency heads’ criticisms voiced to the mayor’s office in the last year. The changes, part of the “BEGA Amendment Act” buried in the 300-page Budget Support Act that takes effect October 1, were passed unanimously and without debate June 26.
As a parent raising children in a city whose education system is ruled by the scandal du jour, I worry about a proposed amendment which will further entrench us into a culture of darkness. The D.C. Council’s “BEGA Amendment Act of 2018” will end the independent nature of the Office of Open Government. D.C. residents risk losing an independent resource which has for the past five years supported government agencies and boards in compliance of Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts.
Councilmember Allen should consider removing the BEGA Amendment Act of 2018 from the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Support Act before the Council votes Tuesday on second reading. Instead, he should give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed amendment at a public hearing.