I acknowledge the holiday season has lmited my blogging time, but it hasn't caused the Sunshine
Law infractions to cease.
Earlier this month, a school board president, irate with the local newspaper, decided she wanted
to pull some school district business from that entity. She had authority to do that herself, and
had she taken action on her own, she would have been fine.
Instead, she decided to poll' the board members. She emailed the board and asked them to get
back to her with a yes or no as to whether to proceed. Oops, looks like a vote and walks like a
vote, but unfortunately, it's a vote without notice and being conducted out of the public eye so it
quacks like a Sunshine Law violation. Apparently, when the good folks at AG Jay Nixon's
office called her to suggest gently she might need to remedy this situation, she decided to ignore
this good advice. It took a letter to her from his office to rectify the problem.
(Almost reminds me of a good story from not long ago where the AG's office sent a letter
warning a public body in northwestern Missouri that it was violating the Sunshine Law. To
**** with what Jay Nixon thinks, harrumped the attorney for that esteemed body to the board.
Well, shortly thereafter, the AG sued, and even more shortly thereafter, the attorney was fired by
the board.... )
Anyway, last night a reporter calls to report a fire protection district in the center of the state is
planning to add a quick item to its agenda at the start of its meeting. Unfortunately, board
members know this item is controversial and clearly this is a ploy to avoid a public confrontation
over this matter. Is it a violation to add a last minute item to the agenda? Not necessarily, but it
would seem that any body needing to do that would be well-advised to include in its minutes the
reason for the last-minute need to vote on an item that was not in the agenda announced to the
public. And if there wasn't good cause for the last minute addition, have you not created a
situation where you are clearly signaling that the sole cause for this urgent need to discuss this
without notice was to avoid public knowledge about the discussion? Is it worth putting yourself
in a situation where litigation could be brought against you just to avoid facing the voters about
something they have a right to know?
Well, as we head into a new year, we wish all of you much sunshine in your local governments.
March will bring us Sunshine Week, 2007. If you want to start celebrating early, you might
want a yellow Govern in Sunshine rubber bracelet. You can find out how to get one by
clicking here: (hint: check the last item on that page). Some of my clients got them for the
holiday season You'll want one of your own
Looking forward to seeing you back in 2007