It's Sunshine Week across the land. I understand citizens wanting to share in the celebration of this basic principle of freedom in this land... they are the beneficiaries of the law, most certainly. And it's been good to see the media writing about these laws and focusing attention on the critical importance these laws make in ensuring good government.
But there are some groups that should just sit down and shut up during Sunshine Week. And when they open their mouths and attempt to share in this, sometimes it's just downright funny.
The best example one can imagine of this can be seen right here. Can you imagine the former executive director of the Missouri Municipal League claiming "We're the strongest proponents of the sunshine law"? As my young adult son would say, RITFL. Actually, that doesn't begin to describe the response that line should generate. "Laughing so hard you find yourself gasping for breath" (LSHYFYGFB) is probably a better description. "Falling over in shock from a heart attack" (FOISFAHA) also comes to mind.
Well, just a couple of weeks ago, I saw a representative of the MML testify in support of House Bill 1445 in Jeff City. Oops, I'm confused. He was testifying in OPPOSITION to the bill. Yep, a great example of a strong proponent of the sunshine law right there, he was. Indeed, the only times I've seen the MML support a sunshine law bill was when they wanted to pretend they supported the bill but then skewer it on the side. They do that, you ask? No. Of course not. Cows fly.
Indeed, just today I overheard a discussion among city attorneys about how to avoid turning over public records that were being requested by a private citizen. Would a city attorney really do that? Think about ways to avoid honoring a sunshine law request? Of course not. After all, they are "the strongest proponents of the sunshine law....."
Indeed, the head litigator in the state was just taken to task this week by another lawyer for his lack of support in putting the pedal to the metal in terms of forcing a public body to honor its obligation under the sunshine law. In this case, it related to a city council granting tax abatement to an entity without having minutes to document that the decision was made. The argument was something to the effect that minutes weren't required. It's too complex a fact situation to go into here, but my point is that if you are fielding thousands of sunshine law violation calls a month and you hire someone to drive 50,000 miles a year to teach about the sunshine law, then perhaps it would be wise to not just assume you've done all you can do to drive home the point that the law must be followed. Could you simply be educating folks about the actual lack of enforcement that this state's highest officials will undertake in connection with this law?
Never doubt that the "strongest proponents of the sunshine law" are NOT the Missouri Municipal League. It is NOT the Missouri Attorney General. It's you folks, out there in the field, who send in those thousands of sunshine law requests every month and who keep after your local officials to answer your questions.
Right now, the most important thing you can do to honor Sunshine Week is to CALL your state representative. Get a phone number for that person on this website. Call them and talk to them, or at least leave a message that you need them to vote in support of House Bill 1445. One call is all it takes. One email is all it takes. You've got a few days left before Sunshine Week ends. Do YOUR part to celebrate. Make that call!