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Sunshine Week sheds light on government

March 21, 2011
Morning Journal News

This past week, Morning Journal reporters weren't just celebrating St. Patrick's Day and getting ready for today's start of spring, our reporters were busy performing their annual ritual of checking up on local government agencies.

Sunshine Week, which was held March 13-19, is an annual initiative sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. During that week, many newspapers all over the United States conduct an examination of government's responsiveness to citizens.

The Journal has been participating in the annual records audit for several years. We choose records we know to be public and request them from local government agencies, and sometimes school districts. We also try to seek records which contain information we believe would be of interest to our readers.

This year we asked our local municipalities how much sick and vacation time employees are permitted to accumulate and how much money those employees can be paid for the unused time when they retire. A full account of each Morning Journal reporter's records quest begins on Page 1, along with the information gathered this year.

Because we have been doing these audits for several years now, most local government offices are expecting an unannounced visit from one of our reporters, sometime early in March. Our reporters try not to identify themselves when they make their records request and we mix up the beats to send reporters to areas they don't normally cover. We want to see what an average citizen would encounter when trying to obtain public information. But, because these audits are conducted annually and many of our reporters have been with our newspaper for 10 to 30 years, it's getting difficult for them to not be identified by public officials.

And, as has been the case for several years, everyone charged with keeping the books in our local municipalities received high marks from our reporters for being in compliance with the Ohio Open Records Law.

We're happy our municipalities agree with us that transparency is the best policy and openness should never be feared by a government that is honest and hard-working.



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