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Editorial: Open government

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Public officials and members of the news media from throughout Southeast Missouri have been invited by Attorney General Jay Nixon to a Sunshine Law seminar next Monday at Southeast Missouri State University. The seminar is part of the attorney general's ongoing efforts to make those who hold the public's trust -- whether elected or appointed officials or reporters and editors for various news outlets -- understand Missouri's Sunshine Law.

In this year's legislative session, several important changes were made to the Sunshine Law, which deals with open public meetings and open public records. The seminar in Cape Girardeau is the first of several regional sessions the attorney general's office will conduct around the state.

Over the years, Attorney General Nixon has been at the forefront of interpreting, through attorney general's opinions, and enforcing the Sunshine Law.

The Sunshine Law is based on the premise, clearly stated, that it is the intent of the law that all public meetings and records be open to the public except for some specific exceptions. Some of those exceptions permit closed meetings and records -- but do not require that the public be denied access.

The Southeast Missourian sponsored a similar seminar several years ago for public officials in this area. Those attending said the meeting was a valuable resource for understanding the Sunshine Law and some of its complexities.

Monday's seminar should prove to be equally beneficial, especially with members of the attorney general's staff on hand to present information and answer questions.

These efforts to inform and help everyone be consistent with the Sunshine Law are a bonus for public officials and the news media. By their attendance at Monday's meeting they will show they are serious about keeping government open to the public.


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