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Column

Transparency training: Take it, then live it

Openness and transparency in government won’t happen unless board members and trustees and council members know the law, adhere to it, and demand that others do the same.

By now, most – if not all – of the newcomers elected in the Consolidated Election on April 4 have been sworn into office.

These newbies on elected boards and councils across the Illinois Valley have already started getting their feet wet regarding their new roles as representatives of the public on tax-supported units of government.

If they have not already done so, they should go online as soon as possible and spend time doing their online training regarding the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Yes, we know. According to state law, newcomers have 90 days to complete this task – until early August, in some cases.

But it will help them tremendously to have this know-how in their hip pockets as they become acclimated to their new responsibilities.

There’s a reason a law was implemented in 2012 to require elected board members to take the online training.

Many of them, otherwise, would have little inkling about what the Open Meetings Act requires them to do.

Having a working knowledge of the Open Meetings Act empowers board members to serve the public to the best of their abilities regarding openness and transparency.

During the training, they will learn various legal definitions, requirements for legal public meetings, including advance notices and agendas, how meetings can be properly closed, what can be properly discussed in closed sessions, requirements for minutes and verbatim recordings, how the Open Meetings Act applies to electronic gatherings, enforcement of the act, and the role of the Public Access Counselor. Trainees also learn about the Freedom of Information Act.

Members of public bodies need to remember the people have a right to be informed about how public business is conducted. In other words, deliberations and actions are to be conducted openly.

For people unaccustomed to public service, those concepts might be foreign. But to ensure honest, aboveboard government, they are vital.

Members of the public may also take the training. Here is the online address:

http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/electronic_foia_training.aspx

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway.

Openness and transparency in government won’t happen unless board members and trustees and council members know the law, adhere to it, and demand that others do the same.

That is our charge to newcomers on elected boards across the region: take this training, and then live it.

The Tonica News

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