Not So “Public” Information

John J. Walters Aug 24, 2010

Job growth in Maryland slowed to a crawl during the month of July and, apparently, the O’Malley administration doesn’t want anyone to know it.  Last Friday, when the Department of Labor and Licensing posted up their regularly-scheduled data on Maryland’s Employment Situation, the criticism from Ehrlich’s campaign team was so strong that it prompted the removal of the report only a few hours later.

Republicans are already making quite a fuss over the report -- of which no one seems to have a copy -- and Democrats are already scrambling to downplay the whole affair.  The Washington Post has a good summary of the event, as well as the backlash that it spawned.

In brief, Reps are alleging that O’Malley purposefully had it removed because it ran contrary to his message of five consecutive months of job growth for the state.  Meanwhile, an unnamed administration official has stated that it was an “innocent mistake” in which the department released what was supposed to be an internal report and then, upon realizing their mistake, took it down.

Their defense, of course, raises all sorts of questions.  If it was indeed an internal report that was mistakenly posted, why couldn’t they immediately post the regularly-scheduled “official” report immediately after taking down the first one?  And why would there be a difference between what those in the government see and what those in the public are allowed to see?

The Ehrlich campaign urges citizens to “draw their own conclusions” from the event, but I decided I’d rather see if I could track down the mysterious document myself.  After a morning spent calling each and every extension of the DLLR that I thought may have some idea what I was asking for (including the webmaster) I still came up empty handed.

Most extensions that I tried were answered within a few rings by friendly people who, although they could not provide me with the information I sought, at least tried to connect me to someone that could.  By contrast, the Communications and Media Relations department rang for several minutes with no response and no way to leave a message and the Labor Market Information department went immediately to voicemail as if they are screening their calls.

In the end I had to file a MPIA request with the department of Public Affairs and am still waiting, at the time I write this blog post, for an official response on what information they are “allowed” to release.  I find this interesting, as the information is apparently available (though not summarized just for the state of Maryland) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics right here (click here for the full report).

It makes me wonder what they think they are hiding, who they think they’re hiding it from, and why they would do such a thing to begin with.  Don’t they know that the best way to ensure everybody finds out about something is to try and cover it up?