Grappling with the Gray

Grappling with the Gray #77: Not for public consumption?

January 24, 2024 Yonason Goldson
Grappling with the Gray
Grappling with the Gray #77: Not for public consumption?
Show Notes

Is there ever such a thing as too much transparency, too much disclosure, or too much open information?

That's the subject the ethics panel takes up when Sam Ardery and Jennifer Elder join me to Grapple with the Gray.

Here is our ethics challenge:

As of January 1, a new Florida law requires city officials to report their assets, liabilities, sources of income and net worth, the same disclosures previously required of state legislators, county commissioners, school board members, sheriffs, and other constitutional officers.

In response, dozens of city officials have resigned, citing reasons ranging from health concerns to opposing the invasion of their privacy.

The law, however, is an application of the Sunshine Amendment, which begins by stating the principle that ‘A public office is a public trust.’

We can probably all agree that transparency is a good thing, but is there a line between how much disclosure is enough and how much is too much?

Presidential administrations have been accused of weaponizing the IRS to harass political opponents with trivial or fabricated offenses by exploiting public information. Moreover, does demanding disclosure to ensure trust communicate a mixed message that officials aren’t trustworthy?

Aren’t public figures entitled to some measure of privacy in their personal lives? A recent NY Times op ed met with widespread criticism for speculating about Taylor Swift’s sexuality. We’ve come to take it for granted that outrageous treatment in the tabloids is the price of fame, but is that fair to celebrities, and is it healthy for society?

Of course we want public officials to be accountable for their financial and professional conduct. But if they feel their privacy is being unduly invaded, will that not discourage otherwise viable candidates from electing to serve the common good?

How do we gauge the point at which notoriety or public service carries an implicit acceptance of diminished personal privacy?

Meet this week’s panelists:

Sam Ardery is a national mediator, trial lawyer, consultant, speaker, and author. He teaches negotiation at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law and is author of Positively Conflicted: Engaging with Courage, Compassion and Wisdom in a Combative World.

Jennifer H. Elder, is a CPA and Certified Speaking Professional who helps leaders future-proof their businesses by making smart decisions and staying ethical.