March 2016 Editorial Winner

Let the sunshine in
Barb Walter, The Hennessey Clipper

Our government should be an open government for all the people, not just the press, and the press doesn’t take it lightly that we have open government in our country.
Our state.
Our county.
Our town.
Or, this press doesn’t, and we’d like to think we have helped that happen due to workshops and our questions over the years so that our public officials know the open government, open meeting and open record laws.
I can still remember when the press association sent an anonymous request to every board of education in the state asking for the salary of the school superintendent.
A self-addressed and stamped envelope was enclosed.
I can’t remember the exact number, but few administrations answered, and most of those who did stated it wasn’t a public record.
It is!
Also many years ago — 35 — a town board member wanted to go into executive session to discuss the budget.
First, the item wasn’t on the agenda for discussion, or action, and that’s a no-no, according to the law. That is unless, it was unforeseen at the time the agenda was posted. That’s not a catch-all for the dog-ate-my-homework, or I forgot to put it on the agenda.
The town board could not go into executive session (closed to the public) to discuss the budget.
Public boards may only go into closed session to discuss the hiring, firing or discipline of an employee, or with their attorney when discussing legal action, or purchase/sale of property when it would not be in the best interest of the board/town.
You’ll see a Sunshine Week logo on stories in this week’s edition.
Without our state Open Meeting and Record laws it would be impossible for us to let you, the people, know what is happening in our community, and how tax money is spent.
I’m off my soap box and thankful we live in a state with strong Sunshine laws.

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