In order for government to truly be accountable and transparent, it must operate openly.
That's why it's important that both the public and public officials stay familiar with the Sunshine Laws, which dictate how publicly-funded entities can make decisions. Any citizen must be able to attend public meetings and must have access to various forms of public records.
This reminder about government's transparency and accountability was issued recently by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The state attorney general's office, in a joint effort with the office of Ohio Auditor David Yost, release an updated guide about the state's Sunshine Laws every year.
The Sunshine Laws Manual - commonly known as the "Yellow Book" is the "owner's manual for public records - and the owner is you, not the government," Yost stated.
Having the Sunshine Law manual at your fingertips helps public officials and citizens better understand Ohio's open meetings and public records laws.
In addition to releasing this guide each year, the state offices promote open government by offering free Sunshine Law trainings to public officials, as required by law. Last year, the offices of the attorney general and state auditor conducted 20 training sessions attended by more than 1,300 people. Sunshine Law training sessions have been scheduled to take place this year in locations across the state. Both public officials and members of the general public are welcome to attend these training sessions, which can be found online at the state attorney general's Website.
The Sunshine Laws guide for Ohio can also be found online and downloaded from the state auditor or attorney general's Websites, as well. These manuals are intended to simply be guides since much of open government law is derived from case law or interpretation of statues by the courts, according to DeWine, who encouraged local government officials to seek guidance from their legal counsel when specific questions about these laws arise.
However, we encourage all public officials and citizens to keep themselves educated about the basic guidelines that can be found in the "Yellow Book." Open government policies are not only a key ingredient to the formula that makes America great, they are the law and they should be followed by all public entities.