Editorial: Transparency at stake

The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction): Some government officials want the public to believe that publishing legal notices in newspapers is a waste of taxpayer money.

They may as well say that they don’t think transparency — real transparency — is worth paying for. Or that they don’t owe taxpayers any accommodation to stay abreast of the public’s business. Or that saving taxpayer money is convenient cover to diminish the public’s right to know.

Over the years, government lobbyists have tried unsuccessfully to change laws requiring government bodies to publish legal notices in newspaper of record. This year’s version, Senate Bill 156, would phase out the legal requirement that public notices of county salaries and monthly financial reports be published in a newspaper.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, SB156 would allow counties to place public notices of county salaries and expense reports on each county’s website, rather than a local newspaper.

Newspapers certainly have a financial stake in this legislation. There is a fee for publication of legal notices in newspapers. Those rates are capped by state statute and are offered as the lowest advertising rates in newspapers. That modest rate has not changed since 1993. We contend that this is an efficient, cost-effective system that delivers the biggest bang for the buck and provides third-party verification that a notice was properly placed.

When a legal notice is printed in the newspaper, governments receive a notarized affidavit of publication. The printed copy of the newspaper is proof of compliance. It’s a hard copy that you can read anywhere without firing up a laptop.

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