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Author Topic: LT - Let the Sun Shine In  (Read 664 times)
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GDouglas
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« on: March 10, 2011, 01:32:22 PM »

Editorial from the Londonderry Times www.Nutpub.net

Let the Sun Shine In
3/10/2011

Open and transparent government - sounds like the battle cry of community newspapers.

It's what the public should expect from officials at the local, state and national level. And providing information about the operation of government at the local level is a job this newspaper takes seriously.

March 13 through 19 is Sunshine Week, a reminder that government business conducted in the open is at the heart of a democracy. If we don't know what our officials are doing, we have no way to hold them accountable. And the more information we all have, the better.

Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power. And that power is not something to be held close to the chest by politicians; it belongs to each of us and is available to everyone who votes politicians into office and depends on them for services, fair budgeting and just plain listening to the will of the people.

Sunshine Week is a national effort spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors. Though the week was created by journalists, it is not about newspapers, it's about the public's right - emphasize that word - to know what its government is doing, and why.

The key, of course, is access to meetings and records. And open government means newspapers, if they're doing their job, must act as watchdogs, asking the uncomfortable questions, getting the information, and providing it to their readers. Then it's up to every constituent to exercise his or her right to demand an accounting by those in office. And if documents are not readily made available, the state's Right to Know process is ready for anyone to use.

The motto of Sunshine Week is "Your Right to Know." That's the heart of what government is all about. As a citizen in a democracy, you have the right to know how your government operates, and your elected officials have the obligation, except in carefully spelled out specific situations, to conduct their business in the open, even when it gets uncomfortable for them.

Sure, it's easier for officials to discuss public business in private, where strategies can be aired without anyone listening. But that's not the way things are supposed to work.

Discussion is to be public. In a quorum. On the record.

Making it hard for the public to find out what's going on is playing loose with open government. That's why we report what we do. Then it's up to all citizens to make their voices heard.

So in the midst of what could be a rainy season, we're here to let the sun shine in
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Glenn Douglas
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2011, 01:42:06 PM »

Quote
Discussion is to be public. In a quorum. On the record.

The preamble to New Hampshire RSA 91-A

"91-A:1 Preamble. – Openness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society. The purpose of this chapter is to ensure both the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies, and their accountability to the people."

There are a few exceptions that allow for non-public discussion. Any board entering non-public session must also specifically state the reasons for the discussion prior to the session.

CHAPTER 91-A
ACCESS TO GOVERNMENTAL RECORDS AND MEETINGS
Section 91-A:39 Nonpublic Sessions. –

I.
(a) Public bodies shall not meet in nonpublic session, except for one of the purposes set out in paragraph II. No session at which evidence, information, or testimony in any form is received shall be closed to the public, except as provided in paragraph II. No public body may enter nonpublic session, except pursuant to a motion properly made and seconded.
 
(b) Any motion to enter nonpublic session shall state on its face the specific exemption under paragraph II which is relied upon as foundation for the nonpublic session. The vote on any such motion shall be by roll call, and shall require the affirmative vote of the majority of members present.
 
(c) All discussions held and decisions made during nonpublic session shall be confined to the matters set out in the motion.
   
II. Only the following matters shall be considered or acted upon in nonpublic session:
       
(a) The dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee or the disciplining of such employee, or the investigation of any charges against him or her, unless the employee affected (1) has a right to a meeting and (2) requests that the meeting be open, in which case the request shall be granted.
       
(b) The hiring of any person as a public employee.
       
(c) Matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person, other than a member of the public body itself, unless such person requests an open meeting. This exemption shall extend to any application for assistance or tax abatement or waiver of a fee, fine, or other levy, if based on inability to pay or poverty of the applicant.
       
(d) Consideration of the acquisition, sale, or lease of real or personal property which, if discussed in public, would likely benefit a party or parties whose interests are adverse to those of the general community.
     
(e) Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed against the public body or any subdivision thereof, or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such public body, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any public body for the purposes of this subparagraph.
       
(f) Consideration of applications by the adult parole board under RSA 651-A.
       
(g) Consideration of security-related issues bearing on the immediate safety of security personnel or inmates at the county correctional facilities by county correctional superintendents or their designees.
       
(h) Consideration of applications by the business finance authority under RSA 162-A:7-10 and 162-A:13, where consideration of an application in public session would cause harm to the applicant or would inhibit full discussion of the application.
       
(i) Consideration of matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of emergency functions, including training to carry out such functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.
       
(j) Consideration of confidential, commercial, or financial information that is exempt from public disclosure under RSA 91-A:5, IV in an adjudicative proceeding pursuant to RSA 541 or RSA 541-A.
   
III. Minutes of meetings in nonpublic session shall be kept and the record of all actions shall be promptly made available for public inspection, except as provided in this section. Minutes and decisions reached in nonpublic session shall be publicly disclosed within 72 hours of the meeting, unless, by recorded vote of 2/3 of the members present, it is determined that divulgence of the information likely would affect adversely the reputation of any person other than a member of the public body itself, or render the proposed action ineffective, or pertain to terrorism, more specifically, to matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of all emergency functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life. This shall include training to carry out such functions. In the event of such circumstances, information may be withheld until, in the opinion of a majority of members, the aforesaid circumstances no longer apply.
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Glenn Douglas
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