We had hoped to share with our readers the engagement agreement between the commission and the legal firm they hired to handle an investigation into allegations at the courthouse but we can't.
The Missouri Sunshine Law, or open meetings law, is of the utmost importance to journalists as it should be to the public. It should also be important to elected officials.
The law, enacted in 1973, governs the public's access to meetings and records of state and local governments. Every city council, fire and ambulance district, school board and other taxing entity in the state is required to follow the provisions of the law. It's about transparency and open government and there are no exceptions.
Governmental entities should never seek to skirt the provisions of the Missouri Sunshine Law. The rules offer exceptions to discussing certain topics in open session, or to avoid releasing certain information to the media and general public. The fundamental question that public officials should always consider is: What are we trying to hide from the public?
That’s the question we’d like to pose to the Camden County Commission. What are you trying to hide? Over the course of the last eight days, the Lake Sun has requested a number of documents from Camden County.
As in the past we have filed those requests with the Camden County Clerk, who is the official keeper of records. Several of our requests had to be forwarded to the Camden County Commission. We are still waiting to hear the status of our requests. We understand they are seeking legal advice.
We had hoped to share with our readers the engagement agreement between the commission and the legal firm they hired to handle an investigation into allegations at the courthouse but we can’t.
The letter should have outlined the scope of the investigation and the costs associated with it. Things taxpayers might have been interested in knowing. Moreover, these are items that we believe should be open records, even if in a redacted format.
The Missouri Sunshine Law not only guards freedom of speech through the press but also helps preserve the lines of communication between the government and the governed. One of the most important aspects of an effective democratic government is communication.
Once again, we believe the Camden County Commission is trying to circumvent the Missouri Sunshine Law by hiding behind the guise of seeking legal advice rather than complying with the intent of the law and producing the documents requested.