Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “…transparency and accountability is still about actions, not words…”

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Last week, due to Veterans Day we were unable to publish the weekly roundup. Here is what you missed in last week’s roundup of transparency blogs around the nation. This week’s roundup will be coming up shortly.

  • According to The Sunshine Review, 254 Texas county websites earned F grades for transparency and accessibility. These districts receive sales or property tax dollars, yet claim that their salary data is not subject to the Texas Open Information Act. Curt Olsen find their lack of transparency unacceptable, arguing, “No public official should ignore that they’re being watched by groups like Sunshine Review to ensure taxpayers at their desktop or laptop computer can see specific information about the budget, meetings, public officials, and ethics.” He goes on to say, “Transparency and accountability is still about actions, not words, and it’s about time the people running these special districts understood taxpayers are their CEO.” For the rest of his take, check out his post on Texas Budget Source.
  • Changes to the Massachusetts open meeting law now allows for members of government boards and commissions to participate in meetings remotely using audio or video conferencing technology. These changes were approved today by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Under the regulations, remote participation will be allowed only when a member’s physical presence at the meeting is “unreasonably difficult” due to reasons of illness, disability, military service, or geographical distance. For more information, see Robert Amborgi’s post on The Media Law Blog.
  • According to Megan Boyd, Oklahoma State University’s  Student Government Association violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act when it passed two pieces of legislation that were not on its agenda. According to the Open Meeting Act, “all public bodies shall, at least 24 hours prior to such meetings, display public notice of said meeting, setting forth thereon the date, time, place and agenda for said meeting.” SGA leaders said that their legislation fell under the exemption of new business under the open meetings law. New business is “any matter not known about or which could not have been reasonably foreseen prior to the time of posting,” according to the Open Meeting Act. The president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma, Inc, an organization founded to educate the public and officials about openness in government, argued that the legislation passed would not meet the definition of new business. Furthermore, Joey Senat, Associate Professor of Media Law at OSU maintains, “Even honest mistakes are not an excuse for violating the Open Meeting Act. It’s not a game. It’s not an academic exercise. It’s real money, and it’s real decisions, and it is a real law.” For the entire story, see Boyd’s post on The Daily O’Collegian.

Connect with other transparency bloggers in this Transparency Bloggers Google group   and see what others are doing in the transparency movement by joining this Citizens for Open Government Google Group.

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