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Thursday, June 5, 2014

In the spotlight


The meeting I showed up for twice to attend once yesterday was my quadrennial open records and open meetings training. Government in Ohio cannot operate behind closed doors, and considering the number of, what a former Auditor of State liked to call scallywags have been sent to prison in the last several years, it doesn't.

Collectively the statutes are called Sunshine Laws. In reality it’s a framework backed up by a lot of case law, or the interpretation of the statutes by the courts. I have to take the three plus hours of training once every term; once every four years. For one reason or another, this was the fourth training session I've endured and I’m on my third four year term.

It seems I have inflicted unnecessary punishment on myself, when in fact I tried to make up for the fact that in spite of my many appearances I never received the certificate of attendance. No gold seal on a paper proving my attendance at a required training.

Why do I care, you ask? Because not taking required training is a nick at an audit, and we know I like to be in charge of what nicks I receive and do not receive. This year, by damn, I have the parking receipt, and I dare anyone to tell me I spent four hours freezing in the Akron Public Library auditorium on that date, at that time, for any reason other than Open Records and Open Meetings training.

I had to put together a statement of my township’s public records policy several years ago, to be displayed in a prominent place. I wasted no time; I went straight to the State Attorney General’s website and copied his, word for word. Good for the goose, good for the gander. Another village down the line decided to borrow my fine piece of workmanship, and brought to my attention I had a policy about pubic records.

I do wonder why elected officials who have training under their belts must continue to attend, as the last change to the law was in 2007. That one made the birthday of an elected official a public record. If the request is for the birthdays of all elected officials in my township and the record is not available in a report I regularly keep, I do not have to scurry through personnel records and construct a list.  If the request is for one birthday, I would have to open the drawer and produce it. 

I don’t consider all this training valuable to stay abreast of what trumps what.  It boils down to, if the public wants it, the public gets it, and it cannot clear my desk too soon. If the trustees decide on an unscheduled meeting, I notify the press before I leave the building. If they call executive session for a nebulous reason I turn to legal counsel and ask if we can proceed.  If they go ahead nebulously, I document it. We pay auditors a lot of money to find that stuff.




A scalawag with his own sunshine laws 

14 comments:

  1. All you need is a Ninja outfit, Joanne. Go get 'im!

    What is that bird? Is it really called a 'scalwag'? Excellent.

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    1. No, it's a garden variety cardinal, trolling the grass for fallen safflower seeds from the overhead feeder. They feed from flat places.

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  2. I think your calling was to be an attorney -- all that legal stuff!!! -- barbara

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  3. If only everyone were as assiduous and 'transparent' as you, we'd have it made. Thank you so much for your kind comments on my blog today, they were very much appreciated. Glad to have 'met' you.

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  4. Such a colorful bird! I think it is always good to carry out the procedures in one's job; sounds like you think the same and want to make sure you do the best you can on your audits.

    betty

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  5. Bureaucracy ... but the only way to deal with it is to follow the letter AND the spirit of the policies.

    I had to read the paragraph about public records a half a dozen times to figure out what the problem with "pubic records" was. lol The eye sees what the mind expects :)

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  6. I echo Jacqueline's comment, Joanne. And I love your cardinal photo!

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  7. "if the public wants it, the public gets it"
    I like the sound of that. Out here it's "if the governments/councils want it, public be damned"
    or something like that.
    You do a very good job. Laughed at "pubic records"

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  8. Pretty bird. Too early to say anything intelligent. :-)

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  9. You are a detail person and they are so lucky to have you.

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  10. I read my "local" newspaper on line and down in SE Ohio, my hometown's sheriff has been suspended (64 counts of various charges) until the investigation is over, and a nearby town's mayor has been suspended - or maybe ousted - on other charges.... oh, the life of a politician!

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  11. Hopefully, all of your work leads to a life of no dementia.
    Pretty bird!

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  12. Dear Joanne, I'm not sure I understand exactly what you are doing as this isn't--so far as I know--part of what happens either in Missouri--where I've lived for 5 years--or in Minnesota--where I lived for 38 years. Are you what is called a "watchdog" so as to see that no one in political life in your county engages in shenanigans? Peace.

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  13. Hari Om
    ...crikey... 8~) YAM xx
    (nice bird BTW - glad to see feet on ground...)

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