Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bolivar editor makes good suggestions about Sunshine Law

Charlotte Marsch, editor of the newspaper in Bolivar, Moo., makes a good suggestion about how the Sunshine Law can be better used in her community.

Randolph County Presiding Commissioner Jim Myles offers some good advice to county commissions regarding compliance with Missouri's Sunshine Law: "Do it yourselves and be committed to keeping the public informed with good agendas and good minutes before someone gets the attorney general and forces you to."

That was said after Randolph County endured a special state audit and an investigation by the attorney general's office due to allegations of decisions made in secret meetings. The county now has a nine-page policy that guides the county's compliance with the Sunshine Law.

Myles said it was "like pulling teeth" to get the county in compliance with the law.

The way county commissions conduct business and hold meetings varies around the state. Polk County has not been complying with the requirement to post a detailed agenda for each meeting. The commission needs to consider some options for how to make the courthouse more open to taxpayers and be in compliance with the Sunshine Law.

A good first step would be to develop a Sunshine Law policy. It doesn't necessarily have to be nine pages, but it needs to be in place so there are no questions about how the county should be conducting its business - in the sunshine for taxpayers to know how their money is being spent.

Once again we offer the idea of having individual commissioners taking shifts working in the office to gather public input and to carry out already determined policy. All discussion leading to votes, and those votes, then could take place in a public meeting at a designated time reasonable for the public to attend and reasonable in duration.

With a new presiding commissioner to be elected in November and coming on board in January, the Polk County commission has a great opportunity to make some changes to comply with the Sunshine Law.

What do you think? Any thoughts or comments? If you have an editorial on the Sunshine Law that you would like to see posted just send me a copy.


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