Attorney general’s open government bill signed into law

June 24, 2014

By Staff

The Open Government Trainings Act takes effect July 1.

The law is designed to improve public disclosure practices and reduce lawsuits through mandatory training of public officials. A 2012 state Auditor’s Office study found more than 250 “open government-related issues” among local governments. The report found most violations are the result of insufficient training and knowledge, leading to lawsuits that could have been prevented.

The law will:

  • Require local and statewide records officers and elected officials to receive training on the Public Records Act and records retention requirements;
  • Require members of governing bodies to receive training on the Open Public Meetings Act — including state and local boards, councils and commissions, as well as local taxing districts, such as fire and sewer districts;
  • Authorize training to be completed remotely, including online training; and
  • Confirm that the state Attorney General’s Office may provide information, technical assistance and training.

The new law applies to elected and appointed members of school boards, library districts, fire protection districts, conservation districts, water districts, flood districts, transportation benefit districts, housing authorities, and hospital districts, as well as city councils and count commissions. The Attorney General’s Office estimates that about 6,000 public officials across state will be required to take training.

A court can increase or decrease a violation penalty depending on whether the public agency received public records training. This law will protect taxpayer dollars, lead to greater compliance, fewer lawsuits and lower penalties.

The original bill was amended to exclude the law from applying to legislative members.

The Attorney General’s Office has launched an online open government training and resource page at http://1.usa.gov/1hytElG to assist agencies in complying with the new law.

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