This week is National Sunshine Week and it’s an opportune time for media outlets such as ours to talk about the importance of transparency.
On Monday Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the 2017 edition of Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual, along with a complete update to the Online Sunshine Laws Training.
The release of the manual, commonly referred to as the “Yellow Book,” and the updated training coincided with the beginning of National Sunshine Week.
“Sunshine Week promotes open and transparent government meetings and records,” said DeWine. “Our ‘Yellow Book’ and other online content are published to help records requesters understand their rights and for government agencies to understand their obligations under Ohio’s Sunshine Laws.”
This is important to Ohioans and DeWine clearly understands this principle. We understand it as well and we fight for it on a regular basis.
The public has a right to know how its government is being operated and how its tax dollars are being spent. This is why we often ask tough questions of local officials, request documents and look beneath the surface of decisions that are made by school, village, township, city and county officials.
That is part of our watchdog responsibility. Changes in open meetings and what is considered public record are always under review by the courts. It is vital that citizens — as well as journalists and public officials — know the current laws and their rights under those laws.
Recently two residents challenged the law in Liberty Township regarding records taken during a hearing of the former fire chief. It became contentious and then it became litigious, with a court ultimately being asked to rule on the notes taken during the proceedings.
In April the 131st General Assembly of Ohio “created a procedure within the Court of Claims to hear complaints alleging a denial of access to public records.”
The Gazette has spent considerable time covering this issue because of the public’s right to know. We aren’t out to “get anybody.” We simply want the public to know the truth about those proceedings.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Public Records Unit conducts Sunshine Laws Trainings at dozens of locations around Ohio. The training on Ohio Public Records Act is required for local public officials or their designee at least once per elected term and also includes training on the Open Meetings Act.
These trainings are also open to the public and media. A list of trainings can be found at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/SunshineLawTraining.
The Sunshine Law is observed annually, but it needs to be followed daily by local officials in Delaware County and across Ohio. Our residents deserve nothing less than total compliance with all open records and open meetings laws.