It’s Sunshine Week in Ohio, a time that should have great meaning to you. This year I’m honoring my friend Adam White who put it all on the line for you before the Ohio Supreme Court and won a Sunshine Law landmark case. He proved you can’t conduct the people’s business behind closed doors and on personal emails.
I also want to thank the Scioto County Commissioners for being so open. I have just begun covering them, and I have been delighted to see their openness. Could that all change in the future? Possibly. Then I will lay it all out there for the public to see.
I want to make a point with you, our reader. All government bodies, be they a township, county, municipality, school board or any number of organizations are all paid by you. That’s what I said. They are all paid by you. So when they go into hiding behind closed doors, they are saying essentially they want your money but don’t want you to know what they are doing. There are, of course, exceptions, and those are spelled out in the law, but frivolous so-called “executive sessions,” for other than those given under the law should not be tolerated.
When a government body goes into executive session for reasons allowed by law, they have to spell out exactly what they will be discussing before they do and when they return, if they appear to have made any decision at all, they have broken the law. All decisions must be made in the open forum.
One of the biggest proponents of the Sunshine Law is Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine who constantly reminds us in the news media of our rights and supports our standing up for those rights.
DeWine has 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 coincide with the beginning of National Sunshine Week.
“Sunshine Week promotes open and transparent government meetings and records,” DeWine said. “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.”
It is just this simple. You have a right to know what is being done with your tax dollars and by those in charge of appropriating them. Transparency is essential for a Constitutional Republic (yes, that is what we are. Not a Democracy, a Constitutional Republic). So do your part to hold your leaders to a policy of openness and transparency.
For your information the Sunshine Laws Manual provides summaries of Revised Code provisions and case law regarding the Ohio Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act. The 2017 edition includes updates on recent open government legal decisions and law changes, including a new remedy available to public records requesters in the Court of Claims of Ohio. In addition, the 2017 electronic addition now includes clickable bookmarks to allow readers to quickly jump to the topic they are interested in. It can be accessed at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/YellowBook.
The big shots in Washington and in other government bodies didn’t make America great, you did. Never forget that.