Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “anytime you have an entity that receives state dollars, there should be transparency”

  • Following the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, lawmakers want to strip state-related institutions’ exemption from Pennsylvania’s right-to-know law. State Representative Eugene DePasquale announced that he would introduce legislation making state-related institutions subject to the Act 3 of the law which requires all records of state and municipal governmental agencies to be open to public access, including financial documents, contracts and emails from university officials. State lawmakers and open government advocates said the legislation would increase transparency for institutions that receive taxpayer funds. However, in 2007, Penn State officials opposed the right-to-know law because of fear that it would result in less revenue from donors and private companies. Terry Mutchler, executive director of the Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records matains that the law should be enforced, arguing, “anytime you have an entity that receives state dollars, there should be transparency.”‘ For Caleb Taylor’s take, read his post on Statehouse News Online.
  • CaroMont Health’s board of directors violated North Carolina’s open meeting  law Monday when it voted behind closed doors to hire a new chief executive officer. North Carolina’s open meetings law  states that a public body with final authority can’t hire or fire in a closed meeting, according to attorney Amanda Martin, general counsel for the N.C. Press Association. As Gaston County hospital is a public institution, the board is considered to be a public body. Micky Price, Gaston County commissioner and CaroMonth board member points out, “Though a body can discuss and consider a new hire in closed session, the vote itself must take place in an open session,” For the whole store, check out Regan Robinson’s post on The Gaston Gazette.
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has hired private legal counsel to represent  Dane County county district attorney Ismael Ozanne being sued for allegedly violating a state open government law — a move made necessary because the DA has sued the state for allegedly violating another open government statute.  Ozanne requested an outside attorney to represent him in a lawsuit filed by the Michigan-based Education Action Group Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for changes in public schools.  The group is  suing him over his failure to promptly provide records of his communications regarding three lawsuits challenging Walker’s budget repair bill, which stripped most public employees of most collective bargaining rights.  For Bill Lueders’ take, check out his post on Wisconsin Watchdog.
  • As part of South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Better Government Initiative, an improved South Dakota homepage was launched last week. The website now includes search engine functionality that provides easy access to all state government information and services, allowing users to simply type in a keyword or phrase rather than clicking several times to locate a specific topic. Moreover, is a step toward a more open process as it include direct access to government records and contract information through Open SD. It can also be used to track open meetings. For the story, see Bob Mercer’s post on Pure Pierre Poltiics.