Originally created 05/04/01

Door slams on public



The governor has dealt yet another blow to open government. By signing House Bill 158, Gov. Roy Barnes allowed MCG Health Inc. to take its meetings behind closed doors, away from public oversight.

This newspaper opposed that move because publicly funded institutions should be open about what they do. MCG Health Inc. had just asked taxpayers for an additional $35 million in operating funds, but wants to operate like a private company. Joe Taxpayer will now have no idea how his hard-earned money is going to be spent.

MCG Health Inc. has shown since its inception that it intends to operate like a private hospital. Its president and chief executive officer, Don Snell, has been obstructionist when asked to provide documents about the hospital and clinic's operations.

Among those who care deeply about MCG Health are the hundreds of employees, who know that Snell was hired due to his reputation as a bottom-line-driven hatchet man: Where he goes, employees tremble because Snell represents the new wave of lean-and-mean patient care.

Now it's entirely possible in this day and age that staff cuts at MCG Health are needed, but how, when and why they'll be made should not be done behind closed doors.

Secret deals, however, don't bother the governor, who is quickly developing a reputation for preferring to do the public's business in private. This year he signed a half dozen bills that will allow agencies to slam their doors and lock up their records.

"Back-room Barnes" is quickly becoming an enemy of open government. Voters should watch his every move.