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Nothing gets attention quite like secrecy

In 2010, West Virginia spent about $126 million in stimulus funds to put West Virginia in the fast lane of the Internet highway. This included $24 million for high-capacity Cisco routers, a purchase that has raised eyebrows on the Internet and on Capitol Hill.

Last year, the state Commerce Department hired ICF International to review the state's broadband spending. The state has paid the firm $320,000 so far.

But the state won't release the report.

"The documents may be embarrassing to some people . . . embarrassing because it was someone's opinion," Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette told the Gazette's Eric Eyre.

Burdette apparently believes an exemption in the state's Freedom of Information Act allows - but does not require him - to keep confidential what he characterized as an "internal memorandum" from ICF.

This is getting interesting, which raises curiosity.

Earlier this year, the state Legislative Auditor's Office contended that the state wasted at least $7.9 million, and as much as $15 million, in purchasing oversized Cisco routers.

Clearly, the public deserves more information about how this money was spent.

As House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, pointed out, the federal government requires recipients of broadband grants to be "open and transparent" about what they did with the money.

"When you have a project, and you're talking about millions of dollars in spending, and there are questions about whether those funds were efficiently spent, the public has a right to know about it," he said.

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

Armstead introduced a bill to eliminate the exemption Burdette cited in refusing to release the report.

The state's broadband project has become quite the topic of conversation already.

Keeping from taxpayers the information they paid to get will heighten curiosity and suspicion, not make it fade away.



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