Thursday, October 06, 2016

State auditor identifies five most common Sunshine Law violations

(From State Auditor Nicole Galloway)

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has identified the five most common Sunshine Law violations found in Missouri government. The list was compiled based on audit reports issued over a one-year period, and includes problems related to a number of issues, including not preparing meeting minutes, a lack of documentation of the reason for closing a meeting to the public, and closing a meeting for reasons not allowed under the 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. Reasons for closed meetings- The reasons for closing a meeting were not adequately documented, or the reasons were documented, but not allowable under the law.

2. Open meeting minutes- Minutes were not prepared for open meetings.

3. Closed meeting minutes- Minutes were not prepared for closed meetings.

4. Review of minutes- Meeting minutes were not always reviewed or approved in a timely manner.

5. Meeting agendas- A meeting agenda was not prepared or posted, or did not include adequate information related to the upcoming meeting.

A similar report was released last year, which included concerns related to inadequate government policies for responding to requests for information from the public under the Missouri Sunshine Law. While still a concern, the issue dropped out of the top five, with only a few local governments identified as not having policies to provide the public with access to documents.

The top five list was compiled from audit reports released between July 2015 and June 2016. The complete Sunshine Law Summary report is online here.

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