Sunlight Weekly Roundup: lack of advanced notice of meeting “an insult to taxpayers”

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  • Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska, a free-market advocacy group, has filed a complaint with the state attorney general against the Lincoln-Lancaster County Public Building Commission, alleging the body violated the state’s open meetings laws. The complaint alleges that commission did not provide adeuate notice of an emergency meeting to draw up plans to buy a bulding near city hall. The only notice the commission provided was one hasty flier on bulletin board inside the City-County Building and a notice on a website the morning of the meeting. Don Killeen, building administrator for the Public Building Commision, maintained that the city’s attorney claimed the flier met the state law’s requirements for public notice of an emergency meeting. Normally, the Public Building Commission’s regular meetings are advertised in the newspaper. However, the director of the Nebraska chapter of Americans for Prosperity, Brad Stevens, said in a press release, “Hanging a flier inside the City/County building announcing this irregular meeting of the PBC is an insult to taxpayers.” For more information, read Deena Winter’s post on The Franklin Center for Government  & Public Integrity. 

  • Hudson County’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics has already taken some heat for holding part of its executive  meeting behind closed doors. Associated Press reporter Michael Gormley asked for an explanation as to why the board was headed into private session, citing New York state’s Open Meetings Law. The outgoing executive director, Barry Ginsberg, explained that JCOPE—like former state ethics panels—is exempt from the Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information law. Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, the chairwoman of JCOPE, maintains that while the board will try to hold public, but sensitive matters—such as personnel decisions and investigations—would need to be done in private. For the whole story, check out James M. Odato’s post on Times Union.
  • New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow has created new rules to keep records of any State Police overtime pay confidential, blocking their access to the public. A Superior Court ruling from 2005 said that the records could be used to determine patrolmen’s assignments, like Homeland Security, undercover cases and the Executive Protection Unit. State Police overtime records had actually been shown on a state website from Governor Chris Christie’s administration designed to promote government transparency and to use for open public records requests for state employees salary numbers. The website, called Christie’s “Transparency Center,” will no longer post policemen’s salaries. Supporters of open government said taxpayers have the right to track public spending. Ron Miskoff of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government said, according to the Republic, “The public is paying the freight, and I don’t see how knowing someone’s overtime will put anyone in danger.” For Bob Holt’s take, read his post on New Jersey Newsroom. 
  • The Sunshine Review has given Kansas a transparency score of “B.” The Kansas state website earned a “B” grade, accounting for half of Kansas’ overall grade. Sunshine Review also analyzed the websites of the five largest counties, which averaged a “B.” The five largest cities earned a “B+” and the ten largest school districts averaged a “C+.”Kansas’ scores across the board are just average compared to other states around the country. Anything less than an ‘A+’ is a disservice to Kansas taxpayers,” said Michael Barnhart, President of Sunshine Review. “Transparency should be a priority to every elected official and voter. Citizens in Kansas and around our nation deserve to have the information they need to hold their government accountable.” For the whole story, read Fred Gough’s post on Hutch Post.
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