While most people stepped outside Wednesday for a dose of sunshine, a number of city employees in Hannibal spent time indoors for a taste of “sunshine.” The “sunshine” at city hall was in fact an informational seminar dealing with the state’s open meetings and records law, better known as the Sunshine Law.
According to City Clerk Angel Vance, the seminar was presented by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. Spearheading the event locally was Fire Chief Bill Madore.
“He wanted to know a little bit more about the Sunshine Law and how it worked as far as open records with fire reports and things like that. He called them (Secretary of State’s office) directly and arranged for them to come and give a presentation to the city. It was an in-service type thing,” said Vance.
After learning that state personnel would be willing to come to Hannibal and present the seminar, Madore discovered there was strong interest in such training.
“He brought it up in staff meeting. All the department heads were on board and willing to send people to listen,” said Vance. “You can’t know too much about the Sunshine Law and can’t hear it too often. Kudos to Bill for setting it up.”
The seminar was well worth the hour-and-a-half of time it took, according to Vance.
“It’s very important, the open records portion and the open meetings portion. We try to make sure that we follow the rules at all times,” she said.
While basically a refresher for personnel in the clerk’s office, that wasn’t the case for everyone who attended.
“There were some employees who attended that felt like they got a lot out of it because they had never attended a Sunshine Law seminar,” she said.
“It was my first experience with formal Sunshine Law training. I thought it was beneficial,” said Madore, estimating that around 30 city employees, representing virtually every department, were in attendance. “I received several comments from those that attended that thought it was a very good presentation.”
Wednesday’s seminar centered on the Sunshine Law as it is currently written, but it could be changing. On Thursday, both chambers of the Missouri Legislature voted to shield public buildings’ security plans and law enforcement guidelines for terrorism incidents from public records requests. The House bill makes the legislation permanent. The Senate’s version would only protect the exemptions through 2017.
The Senate’s bill would also make changes designed to improve transparency to the open meetings and records law, including a requirement that governmental bodies post meeting notices 48 hours in advance.
Page 2 of 2 - (The Associated Press contributed to this story.)