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Learning How Public Meetings Work

Tools

By Jay Michaels

Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) You may have walked into a public meeting before, and didn't know what was going on, or if you could even speak up and say anything.

Idaho's Attorney General is showing local residents how those open meetings work.

You can't win a game if you don't play by the rules. That's also true of state and local government meetings. Everyone from city council members to state lawmakers have to follow laws dealing with public records and open meetings.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says, "There's a lot of people that don't realize there's a difference between FOIA, the Freedom Of Information Act, which is a federal act, and the Idaho Public Records Act. They are not the same thing, they don't operate in exactly the same way."

The Attorney General is holding a series of workshops around the state. Those help private citizens, government officials, and members of the media learn how to correctly access public records. The meetings are well received.

Shoshone resident Steve Pankey says, "Our Founding Fathers gave us rights, responsibilities, and hope. To have hope, we need to do our due diligence, and responsibility to be an informed citizen."

Wasden points out the open meeting law "doesn't" give private citizens the ability to address a private body.

Wasden says, "But also so that the media and the public know what their rights and responsibilities are, and how they can access that information, and do it properly. It reduces the number of antagonistic confrontations you end up with. Because everybody then is operating under the same set of rules."

Rules that spell out the difference between information that's private, and information that's public.

October 15, 2013.


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