Guest Column: Celebrate Open Government With Sunshine Week
By Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen
Sunshine Week is March 16-22, 2014. This celebration coincides with the birthday of President James Madison, who wrote that “a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Please join me in celebrating Wisconsin’s open government “sunshine laws,” the Public Records Law and the Open Meetings Law. By shedding light on the workings of government and the acts of public officers and employees, these laws greatly facilitate our system of democratic government. I applaud the ongoing efforts of our state and local officials and employees to diligently comply with their obligations under these laws.
Understanding how the Public Records Law and the Open Meetings Law work is critical to their success. I am proud of the work done by my staff at the Wisconsin Department of Justice to provide open government information and assistance. I invite everyone to utilize our free resources:
- Visit our Open Government website, http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/open-government, for resources including Attorney General Opinions, our Wisconsin Public Records Law Compliance Outline and Wisconsin Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide, seminar video recordings, sample forms, and other advisory guidance;
- Call the Department of Justice at (608) 266‑3952, leave a message, and receive a return call from one of our public records or open meetings experts;
- Write me at Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Post Office Box 7857, Madison, WI 53707-7857;
- Attend one of our open government seminars this fall. Our experts will explain key provisions of the Public Records and Open Meetings Laws on October 17 at the American Family Training Center (Madison); on October 27 at Waukesha County Technical College (Pewaukee); and at an Internet webinar that participants will attend from their own computers, date to be determined. Seminar registration will open after Labor Day on the Department of Justice website, www.doj.state.wi.us.
I encourage everyone to celebrate the spirit of open government all year long, and to contact the Department of Justice whenever we can assist in opening government operations to the “sunshine” of public oversight.