FEBRUARY 13, 2008
Access to public meetings and records is crucial to government accountability yet many states continue to have open-records exemptions that permit the sort of secrecy the disclosure laws were created to eliminate.
In fact, the majority of the nation’s 50 states regularly intercept the public’s access to information and many don’t have an enforcement system to assure the various taxpayer-funded agencies provide the records. The federal government is also notorious for regularly violating its own open records laws.
An organization that protects the public’s right to oversee its government annually rates states’ systems for disclosing public records and the most recent report card gave 38 states a shameful “F” for systematic violations.
One of those states—Mississippi–is well known for its long history of government secrecy, but legislation has been recently filed to change that by tightening exemptions that will give taxpayers more access to public information.
Public officials throughout the state are known to circumvent open meeting laws by holding private meetings that don’t include a board’s quorum but rather mini, back-to-back meetings with just a few of the officials at a time.
Mississippi is also famous for its dismal campaign finance records
that require little disclosure. Candidates are not required to file campaign finance forms that are in a searchable, electronic form like most states.
Judicial Watch regularly uses open records laws, such as the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the states’ Sunshine Laws, to force the release of government documents and has released two informative publications (open records brochure and open records handbook) to assist the public in obtaining government records.
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