Sunshine Week

It’s Sunshine Week and in honor of it, Ryan Koopmans [on Twitter as @RyanGKoopmans] is sharing an amicus brief in a pending Iowa Supreme Court case on open meetings involving Warren County Supervisors.

From page 7, on the purpose of open meetings laws:

That purpose–to educate, not punish–is logical but easy to miss. If government officials want to meet in private in violation of the law, then they will do so–and they probably won’t get caught, since it’s virtually impossible to monitor private conversations. So if the open meetings laws are to serve a purpose, it is to speak to the vast majority of officials who want to obey the law and do the right thing. It’s to provide a backstop against the natural inclination to hash things out in private.

And from page 8 (emphasis changed to bold):

The very first section of the Iowa Open Meetings Law makes clear that it’s an ideal that public officials should strive to achieve; it’s not something to be “gotten around.” The law’s purpose is to “assure” that “the basis and rationale of governmental decisions” are “easily accessible to the people,” and to do so it demands that any “[a]mbiguity in the construction or application of [Chapter 21] should be resolved in favor of openness.” Iowa Code [Section] 21.1 (emphasis added). That message is pretty blunt. But in case it is lost on any government official, we’ll rephrase it: If you’re taking actions that are designed to hide “the basis and rationale of governmental decisions,” and there is no stated exception in Chapter 21 for doing so, you’re probably violating the law.

I will honor Sunshine Week, in a lucky coincidence, by visiting the Capitol to attend and blog about an education committee meeting.

I will also honor it by thanking some of the local bloggers and microbloggers who help shine the light on government by reading government documents and/or attending open meetings and writing about them for the rest of us:.

Thank you!