Press Release from the Auditor’s Office
JEFFERSON CITY (March 16, 2011) – State Auditor Tom Schweich today promoted increased transparency in government in recognition of March 13-19, 2011 as Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote freedom of information in local, state and federal government. The initiative was launched by the American Society of News Editors in 2005.
“I am proud to recognize Sunshine Week in the state of Missouri,” Auditor Schweich said. “I am hopeful that this recognition serves as a reminder to all Missourians, and their elected officials, about the importance of transparency in government.”
In the course of performing audits, the State Auditor’s Office regularly reviews Sunshine Law practices. In 2010, the State Auditor’s Office had 29 audit reports with recommendations pertaining to the Sunshine Law. The following list, in no particular order, is a summary of frequent recommendations made in reference to Sunshine Law compliance findings in 2010:
1. Responding to Records Requests
The State Auditor’s Office recommends all governmental entities ensure they are following policies for documenting Sunshine Law requests and responding to requests. Entities must clearly establish a records custodian who is responsible for complying with records requests. The State Auditor’s Office recommends maintaining a public request log to help ensure compliance with state law.
2. Open Meetings
The State Auditor’s Office recommends that governmental bodies ensure minutes are prepared and retained, and provide a clear record of all significant matters discussed and actions taken. The State Auditor’s Office also recommends that all governmental bodies work to ensure the time of meetings is convenient so that the public can attend. If a vote is taken to enter into closed session, it is important that the vote be documented in open meeting minutes, along with the reason for closing the session.
3. Closed Meetings
The State Auditor’s Office reminds entities to ensure items discussed in closed meetings are allowed by state law. Issues discussed in closed meetings should be limited to only those specific reasons cited in justifying a closed meeting. Entities should also ensure matters discussed and actions taken in closed meetings are made available to the public to the extent required by state law. The State Auditor’s Office recommends that governmental bodies ensure closed meeting minutes are prepared and retained, and provide a clear record of all actions taken.
4. Public Records
Governmental entities should establish adequate written policies and procedures regarding public access to, and/or copies of, records to ensure compliance with state law. The State Auditor also recommends that entities consider adopting an email retention policy to ensure compliance with state law. Entities should ensure all records are available to the public unless they are specifically closed as allowed by state law.
5.. Meeting Agendas
Proper notification and agendas for public meetings should always be provided. The State Auditor’s Office also recommends that reasons for any deviation from the agenda be documented in the meeting minutes. Also, all agendas should state the specific reasons for going into a closed meeting/session.
For more information on the Sunshine Law, visit http://ago.mo.gov/sunshinelaw/