The last few years, the proposed sunshine law bill debated by the Missouri legislature has included a provision for mandatory training on the law. "Not necessary," argued representatives of state municipal and county associations. "We provide the training." "The AG's office provides training." "This is not something that needs to be in the state law," they say.
So then, explain to me why I get calls about village trustees holding a closed meeting, for which they failed to give notice, in order to select replacement trustees. If they really were planning a closed meeting, and they had gone to training, they'd have at least known they had to vote to go into a closed meeting, and give proper notice of a closed meeting, both times citing an exception in Section 610.021, which allows them to go into this closed meeting.
Uh, which section should they cite for this, you ask? Good question. Mainly because if they'd read Section 610.021, they would see that there AREN'T any exceptions that allow the closure of a meeting to select appointees to fill vacancies on the board of trustees. They are NOT hiring personnel. That exception is not going to fit the bill here. But because they don't even know the basics of the law, they just flounder around in the dark, making up the rules as they go along.
Perhaps some of these folks could be in training for months and they'd still never know the law. (I can think of a few folks I know, who shall remain nameless, who probably fit that bill.) Perhaps rather than training, a large iron skillet, applied up alongside the ear, with a loud THWANG, might get their attention. That and some mandatory fines, they need not be large, for violations. Yes, that would be one way folks might listen.January is right around the corner, folks. Time to start gearing up. We need the legislature to get serious about the sunshine law this year! We need witnesses to testify when bills are heard. We need legislators to understand how frequently this law gets abused and how upset it makes the public when that happens!