Rep. Ed Blackmon's cruel suffocation of a bill that would have put more teeth into the state's Open Meetings Act screams of cronyism since the Canton Mayor and Board of Aldermen, one of the vilest offenders of the law, is a client of his.

Blackmon, who is chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, killed a bill that would have levied fines of up to $1,000 against any public official who violates open meetings laws.

Under current law, violators receive a public reprimand from the state Ethics Commission and a $100 fine is assessed to the public body.

The bill itself was pretty straight forward: If you violate the law, you (the individual) get fined. Pretty cut and dry, right?

After being approved by the House 97-22, Blackmon killed the bill in committee, saying it was unfair that the individual office holder should be fined. He instead wanted to fine the public body on which the individual serves.

In other words, the taxpayers should keep picking up the bill.

Blackmon reasons that along with being too poor to pay the fines, some public officials may also be ignorant of the law and could be unjustly targeted by outside interests.

"The large majority of these people are honorable," Blackmon said. "They don't wake up saying they're going to violate the law, but for whatever reason it might happen."

We believe this argument is the equivalent of a child saying, "I didn't mean to!"

Would Mr. Blackmon use the same logic were he to get pulled over speeding in his Bentley?

Ignorance of the law is never a defense.

But Canton has a rap sheet a mile long. From approving enormous pay raises for themselves in closed session to barring a radio reporter from public meetings, this illustrious body of public servants has violated the law time and time again.

Mayor William Truly recently forced a man to stop videotapping a meeting, a clear violation.

So is it a coincidence that Blackmon, whose firm is paid handsomely by the city of Canton, single-handedly killed legislation that would have finally called Truly and other Canton officials to task?

A majority of the House voted for the bill. A majority of the Senate voted for a bill. Blackmon had no business killing the chance for a compromise bill.

Mississippians deserve and should demand open government that holds public officials accountable.

Hopefully, Rep. Blackmon believes that and his concerns can be alleviated.

We would hate to see Rep. Blackmon habitually become a stumbling block to more open and transparent government.