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Who makes the final decision? Based on what?

Elected officials often justify their decision to meet serially in groups of two based on the fact that they're only talking, they're not making a decision. They won't make the decision, they say, until the public meeting. The problem is: there's no bright line between the discussion and the decision. And without at least some measure of access to the discussion, the public is often left stuneed by the decision.

What's good for the goose...

I’ve written up a short primer for the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors and School Board.

The two have been at odds over a BOS member’s request for salary data and other records from the school board. The school board has said it will take 14 hours of staff time and cost around $700 to get the salary data because of the financial software the board uses. Neighboring localities charge $0 for the same salary information and some use off-the-shelf management tools like Excel.

Anyway, here’s the primer.

To the BOS member requesting records:

Kick this outdated policy to the curb

We've all known someone who has either been foolish enough or unlucky enough to have to move from the Commonwealth to one of the lesser 49 states. 

Check. This. Out.

In the sounds-to-good-to-be-true category, check out this story from Utah. State lawmkers in the Beehive State are about to let the public read their email.
The Utah Legislature joins a small but growing list of governments expanding access to email and other forms of electronic communication.
 

How not to be transparent

If you want to be transparent, then don't hide your plans.

Agency-specific schedules

This week I got yet another reason to love the Library of Virginia and, most especially, their dedicated records analysts. A very small cadre of helpful friendly folks handle records-management questions from every locality and state agency in the Commonwealth. How they accomplish as much as they do and still retain their sunny demeanor is well beyond me.

Anyway, this week they released a new service on their website. In the Library's words,

It can be done

Candidate interviews in public? Yes, it can be done!

With the unexpected death of their chairman in September, the Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors was faced with the task of appointing a successor to fill out the remainder of the chair's term.

Has the dog caught the bus?

Great article this month in the magazine Governing. It talks about public participation in government decision-making and the promises and drawbacks of technology.

No longer limited to the "one meeting at one time and if you miss it, too bad," today's technology creates exciting new opportunities for the public to voice its opinion on issues. The challenge to government is figuring out a way to harness all the input. As an official in Austin, Tex., put it:

 

We're not paranoid!

I sometimes get the feeling in committee meetings or training sessions that people think I'm being a conspiracy-theorist type when I talk about public bodies using the two-by-two rule to discuss public business out of the public eye.

The general rule is that when 3 or more members of a public body get together to talk about public business it must be done at a meeting that is open to the public and notice of the meeting has been given.

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