Sunshine Week March 10-16, 2013

Sunshine Week March 10-16, 2013

Top 10 Things To Know About The Sunshine Law In Missouri

1. When in doubt, a meeting or record of a public body should be opened to the public.

2. The Sunshine Law applies to all records, regardless of what form they are kept in, and to all meetings, regardless of the manner in which they are held.

3. The Sunshine Law allows a public body to close meetings and records to the public in some limited circumstances, but it almost never requires a public body to do so.

4. A public body generally must give at least 24 hours’ public notice before holding a meeting. If the meeting will be closed to the public, the notice must state the specific provision of the law that allows the meeting to be closed.

5. Each public body must have a written Sunshine Law policy and a custodian of records whose name is available to the public upon request.

6. The Sunshine Law requires a custodian of records to respond to a records request as soon as possible but no later than three business days after the custodian receives it.

7. The Sunshine Law deals with whether a public body’s records must be open to the public, but it generally does not state what records the body must keep or for how long. A body cannot, however, avoid a records request by destroying records after it receives a request for those records.

8. The Sunshine Law requires a public body to grant access to open records it already has, but it does not require a public body to create new records in response to a request for information.

9. When responding to a request for copies of its records, the Sunshine Law limits how much a public body can charge for copying and research costs.

10. There are special laws and rules that govern access to law enforcement and judicial records.

Summary of Missouri Sunshine Law

Missouri’s commitment to openness in government is clearly stated in Section 610.011 of the Sunshine Law: “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.”

The law sets out the specific instances when a meeting, record or vote may be closed, while stressing these exceptions are to be strictly interpreted to promote the public policy of openness.

Public meetings, including meetings conducted by telephone, Internet or other electronic means, are to be held at reasonably convenient times and must be accessible to the public. Meetings should be held in facilities that are large enough to accommodate anticipated attendance by the public and accessible to persons with disabilities.

-From the Missouri Attorney General’s website http://ago.mo.gov/Open-Government.htm.

Other useful links are: Missouri Sunshine Law Complaint Form and sunshineweek.org.

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About Echo Menges

Reporter for The Edina Sentinel Covering Knox County, Missouri Since 2010

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