Monday, November 23, 2015

State auditor: The five most frequent Sunshine Law violations

Just one day after Andy Ostmeyer's investigation into the destruction of all of former City Manager Mark Rohr's e-mails by the City of Joplin, all of former President Bruce Speck's e-mails by Missouri Southern State University, and all of former Superintendent C. J. Huff's e-mails older than two years by the R-8 School District, the state auditor's office has released its report on how well governmental entities are following the Missouri Sunshine Law. As you read through State Auditor's Nicole Galloway's list of the five most frequent violations, you will see some of those that were cited by the auditor in its recent audits of the city and the school district.

The news release is printed below:

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has identified the five most common Sunshine Law violations found in Missouri government. The list was compiled from audit reports issued between January 2014 and June 2015, and includes problems related to a number of issues, including a lack of documentation of the reason for closing a meeting to the public; closing a meeting for reasons not allowed under the law; and inadequate policies on responding to requests for information from the public under the Missouri Sunshine Law.

"The Sunshine Law exists to ensure government operates with full accountability and transparency," Auditor Galloway said. "When government entities comply with the Sunshine Law, it allows citizens the opportunity to fully participate in the decisions that impact them at every level. It is my hope governments will use this report to improve their operations to be more accountable to the people of Missouri."

The top 5 most common violations are:

1. Closed meeting topics- Some issues discussed in closed meetings were not allowed by law.

2. Reasons for closed meetings- The reasons for closing a meeting and related votes were not adequately documented.

3. Meeting minutes- Minutes were not prepared for open meetings.

4. Public information policy- Policies were not in place to provide the public with access to documents and/or rates charged for providing information were inconsistent.

5. Review of minutes- Meeting minutes were not always approved in a timely manner.

The complete Sunshine Law Summary report is online here.

Auditor Galloway has also issued a summary report of audit follow-up reviews. The report includes information on government organizations the office conducted follow-up reviews on in 2015. Follow-up reports are generally conducted when an organization receives a performance rating of "poor," the lowest rating available.

The complete Follow-up Summary report is online here.

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