EDITORIAL: Sunshine Week – Good/Bad Examples of Open Government


Photo via News Leaders Association

Good Examples of Open Government

  • Public notices: Many governing bodies are good about getting VS. public notices with plenty of advanced notice.
  • Zoom: Many governing bodies have adapted to the pandemic and are using Zoom, phone conferencing or live online streaming for their meetings. These measures should continue indefinitely to foster constituent engagement and access.
  • Clear agendas: Many governing bodies in the area have clear agendas that make it obvious what is being considered. Those that have occasionally been vague have been willing to update agendas for clarity and to ensure that action items weren’t improperly closed (Plain, keep it up!).
  • Public records: Many governing bodies are quick and respectful of responding back to public records requests, even when there’s wrinkles to be ironed out regarding specific requests (Arena, thank you!).

Bad Examples of Open Government

  • Public notices: VS. is still having a hard time getting some public notices, they need to be sent to news media that request them (Lone Rock, we’re looking at you!).
  • Zoom: Some governing bodies don’t offer a Zoom or conference call-in option. It’s 2021, pandemic notwithstanding, the option to Zoom or call-in needs to be offered.
  • Recording meetings: None of our municipalities record their meetings. Several have done so in the past, but none do so now. This becomes difficult in times like this week where technical glitches lead to VS. irretrievably losing two village board audio recordings. It’s 2021, recording devices are $20-30 or free on our phones. Municipalities please record your meetings!
  • Opening sealed bids: Sealed bids for sale of public property are different than procurement and major construction projects and their required public opening, but it’s still bad practice to open sealed bids before a governing body meeting and without the governing body present, even if done for efficiency (School district, keep it classy!).
  • Hiring without an agenda item: Now that Spring Green has incorporated the village administrator position into ordinance, they need to revisit and reaffirm the hiring of Wendy Crary in that position. Everyone agrees that Wendy is amazing, but the hiring of the position wasn’t publicly noticed and the hiring was improper. Please go back and fix it, no harm, no foul.