We were disheartened to hear this week of the alleged foul behavior of longtime open-government champion Robert Freeman.

Freeman, who headed the State's Committee on Open Government for more than four decades, was fired after reports of his allegedly sexually inappropriate behavior toward a young female journalist who was seeking his help earlier this month.

Images of naked or scantily clad women were also allegedly found on his work computer, and state officials were continuing an investigation of 72-year-old Freeman.

Losing Freeman will be a blow to the media across the state. He was the true supporter of open government and could offer an answer to a thorny question "in a split second," as one local reporter once quipped.

Freeman's job was to make sure that government was playing by the rules.

The state's Sunshine Law requires meetings to be open, void of closed executive sessions, unless for some very specific reasons.

Over the time Freeman has held his position, reporters and editors from the Press-Republican have cried foul at area government meetings when local officials tried to sneak off illegally for a closed meeting. Freeman's name was often evoked as the authority with which we pleaded our case.

It worked more often than not, as word was out that Bob Freeman knew what he was talking about and that he meant business.

Freeman was also a ray of sunshine when it came to hunting down documents with critical information that government simply did not want to part with.

The Freedom of Information Law, known widely as FOIL, is a tool journalists use to request public documents that are not always made readily available by government.

Freeman knew the law to the letter and helped with so many requests over the years in all corners of the state.

He was such an expert in all areas of freedom of the press that he received dozens of honors for his advocacy, including induction into the National Freedom of Information Coalition Hall of Fame in 2013.

The irony of Freeman's role is that he was a paid state employee who often drew the ire of politicians, his bosses, for ruling in favor of the media or the public in cases where elected officials tried to hide information.

In a state like New York, where government scandal is rampant, he earned every penny of his $47,000 state salary and $81,000 pension, which he was collecting while still working as allowed in New York state.

His job was usually seen as safe because he was, quite simply, on the right side of the ethics question.

But he does not appear to be on the right side of ethical behavior now, facing a groping accusation and possibly more trouble. He was well aware of right and wrong behavior, having spoken with many journalists over the decades who were investigating just this kind of activity by public officials.

News of the allegations against him is especially disturbing since the "Me Too" movement has shed so much light on the inappropriate treatment of women this past year.

One would think the heightened awareness of such an issue would prevent occurrences of inappropriate behavior, yet, it seems to keep happening.

Losing Freeman is a potential setback for open government, so it is our fervent hope that whoever replaces him is as knowledgeable as he was about state laws and as passionate about providing the public with information that is rightfully theirs.