VCOG offers Sunshine Week suggestion: evaluate online meeting minutes of localities you cover

Dear Virginia Newspaper Editors and Publishers: 

March 15-21 is Sunshine Week, and we at the Virginia Coalition for Open Government are celebrating. I will be teaching a class on FOIA at William & Mary’s continuing adult learning program, and I'll participate  in a “meet up” at a Hampton Roads-area open data group. 

In the past, many of you have compiled fantastic articles, series and features highlighting the importance of public records and public meetings. We thank you for your efforts. 

While we’re sure you have many other ideas in mind for this year, we wanted to offer up a suggestion for everyone to take up: 

Evaluate the online meeting minutes of localities in your area 

How? Simply visit the county, city and town websites in your coverage area, click around until you find the board or council’s meeting minutes and then ask a few questions:

1. Are they online at all? Some localities might not post them.

2. Are the minutes current? If not, what’s the time gap between the most recent meeting, and the most recent set of minutes.

3. How far back do the minutes go? One year, 3 years, more, less?

4. Is there an audio or visual record of the minutes? (Note, neither is required, but it’s interesting to note who is doing this and who is not)

5. When you open up the minutes, do they include summaries of the comments or discussions, or do they merely list actions taken?

If papers around the state ask the same questions, together we can develop a fairly comprehensive picture of the state of online meeting minutes across the state.

Need additional resources?

The Sunshine Week Toolkit, including a link to logos and icons in a variety of formats and sizes that you can use freely.

The Sunshine Week Idea Bank:

Thank you in advance for your efforts to make Sunshine Week 2015 a bright one!

Megan Rhyne

Virginia Coalition for Open Government, Executive Director


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