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03/18/2013
Concealment: 'Embarrassing' report

Charleston Gazette Editorial

West Virginia taxpayers spent a reported $118,000 for an analysis of broadband network outlays -- but the Tomblin administration won't let taxpayers know the findings because they're "embarrassing to some people" and because reporter Eric Eyre is "dangerous."

This is disgusting. It's a brazen violation of the principle of open democratic government. House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, summed up:

"It's insulting to tell the public they have to pay for something and they can't see it. The public paid for this report."

Amen.

For a year, Statehouse reporter Eyre has revealed how state officials used federal stimulus money to expand broadband Internet access in West Virginia -- but stupidly put monster-size $22,000 routers in some tiny libraries and offices where $100 units would have served well.

A state audit confirmed his allegations. It concluded that between $8 million and $15 million of federal funds had been wasted on the oversized routers.

The vendor supplying the electronic devices -- Cisco Systems, headed by former Charlestonian John Chambers -- offered to correct the mess and give West Virginia an extra three years of warranty at no charge.

During the controversy, state agencies hired a Virginia consulting firm, ICF International, to examine West Virginia's broadband expansion effort. One five-page report, titled Draft Discussion Points, dealt with the router problem.

The Gazette filed a Freedom of Information request to examine the five-page government document, but the Tomblin admistration chose to hide it from the public.

Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said he met with Tomblin's chief counsel, Peter Markham, and they decided to conceal the report on a claim that it's an "internal memorandum."

That's absurd. How could an external report from an out-of-state consultant be an internal memo -- a private note between agency staff members?

Burdette said they chose to hide the report because "the documents might be embarrassing to some people." That's almost a confession that the findings cast a taint on someone in the Tomblin administration, or someone dealing with the administration.

The secretary has an option to release internal memoranda if he wishes, but he told Eyre he wouldn't do so "because you're dangerous."

This shabby concealment adds to the year-long outrage over the waste of taxpayer money on excessive purchases.

http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/Editorials/201303180097

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