Last week, we raised questions about Alane Koki's membership on a citizens' committee studying whether Orange County should limit or prohibit dog owners from tying or chaining dogs. (See "Member of Orange County's chained-dog study panel has ties to dog-fighting.") We documented Koki's failure, during the panel's application process, to disclose her long history of breeding pit bulls and her connections to people known to be involved in dogfighting.
Had the Orange County Commissioners known what they know now, would they have appointed her to serve on the panel back in February? Until someone invents a time-travel machine, that's an unanswerable question.
But the exchange of information—and the lack thereof—is a subplot throughout the news, and throughout our pages, this week.
With the dismissal of all charges in the Duke lacrosse alleged-rape case a year after the drama first surfaced, legal analysts are questioning whether a whole lot of time, energy, money (both private dollars and taxpayers') and emotional turmoil on all sides mightn't have been saved if the prosecution had shared evidence with the defense the way legal protocols dictated. (Read more in this week's "What of those who can't afford expensive defense attorneys?")
Also this week, we follow one set of proposed legislation as it travels through the behind-the-scenes work groups known around Jones Street as "605" meetings, named for the room number in which they originated. Sure, they're public meetings in that members of the public and the media who know about them can attend, but they aren't advertised anywhere, officially, the way panels with real names are. A lot happens at a 605 meeting, but many of the folks Lisa Sorg interviewed for her story this week, "Insider meetings shape laws," weren't all that thrilled to talk about it; they're an insiders' club of the people's business.
Further on in the paper, Congressman Brad Miller shares some thoughts on what's happening in Darfur, which is so far off most Americans' personal radar screens it might as well be happening on another planet. He went there in person, and came back telling stories that would send shivers down your back, if you cared to listen. (Read more in Bob Geary's Citizen column this week, "Never again.")
If you knew more about the genocide in Darfur, would you do something about it? If 605 work groups had bigger audiences, would their movers and shakers make different decisions? If Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong had shared the details of his evidence, would three young men's lives be very different? Probably.
In the case of Alane Koki, she continues to complain, in outraged e-mails to fellow committee members, that information about her such as her home address, phone number and credentials was released to the Indy (see this week's Follow-up, "Appointment questioned"). Vital statistics about appointed officials are public record, and so are the e-mails in which she's protesting.
In these days of news media outlets masquerading as PR agencies for the White House and its wars, among many, many other things, take a look around and see what information you're missing.
Hopefully, you'll find some of it here.