Editorial: Grading transparency in local government

From The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction):  Every year in March the American Society of Newspaper Editors promotes Sunshine Week, reminding everyone that government business is supposed to be conducted in the open.

Laws that require governmental entities and public officials to be transparent are called sunshine laws. They establish an important expectation: that any and all information related to government is available for public scrutiny unless it meets specific exceptions.

The idea is that when it comes to the people’s business, no one should be kept in the dark. Sunshine laws exist so that anyone — not just the media — can know exactly what elected officials, heads of public agencies, government employees and the institutions themselves are up to.

In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we offer our annual assessment of how well local agencies let the sun shine on their actions and if they’ve run afoul of open-meetings and open-records laws.

Law enforcement agencies

The 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office — This continues to be the most open of the county’s law enforcement institutions and the standard-bearer for transparency in local government. District Attorney Dan Rubinstein is an unabashed supporter of the public’s right to know, as he should be, since his office is all about upholding the law. But Rubinstein goes a step further, encouraging all public officials to be open as well. Rubinstein and his staff will share any information they are ethically permitted to. They make themselves available to explain how and why cases are prosecuted or why charges are amended or dismissed.

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