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Barbour signs public records bill
by Associated Press
April 8, 2010

JACKSON — Open-government advocates hope a new law will give people quicker access to most public records in Mississippi. Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill yesterday that says, starting July 1, government entities will be required to respond to records requests within seven working days rather than the current 14. For complex requests, the government could notify the person seeking the records that at least 14 working days would be needed. Jeanni Atkins, executive director of the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information, said that with a response time of 14 working days, it often takes three weeks for people to receive even an acknowledgment of their requests for records from city, county or state governments.
Read more here

Public records law goes on to governor
Would speed up response time for public's requests
By Phil West, Desoto Commercial Appeal
Saturday, March 27, 2010

JACKSON -- State senators sent Gov. Haley Barbour legislation Friday that would cut in half the time public officials have to respond to citizen requests for public records and charge them no more than the actual cost of producing the information. The legislation requires public officials and employees to provide public records in seven working days or give a reason why not. In no case could officials withhold the records for more than 14 working days.
Read more here

Lawmakers OK quicker response for Miss. Records
Associated Press,
March 27, 2010

Open government advocates are praising a bill designed to give citizens quicker access to Mississippi public records. The final version of the bill passed the House and Senate Friday and goes to Gov. Haley Barbour.
Read more here

Blackmon’s opaque government
Editorial, Madison County Journal
March 17, 2010

Rep. Ed Blackmon's cruel suffocation of a bill that would have put more teeth into the state's Open Meetings Act screams of cronyism since the Canton Mayor and Board of Aldermen, one of the vilest offenders of the law, is a client of his. Blackmon, who is chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, killed a bill that would have levied fines of up to $1,000 against any public official who violates open meetings laws.
Read more here

Blackmon kills open meetings law penalty bill
By Steven G. Watson, Associate Editor
March 17, 2010

Rep. Ed Blackmon has killed a bill that would fine public officials who break open meetings laws. Blackmon, a Democrat from Canton who is chairman of the Judiciary A Committee, put a hold on and eventually killed the bill immediately after it passed in the House last week. The bill, known as the "Meetings Accountability Act," would have levied fines of up to $1,000 against any public official who violates open meetings laws.
Read more here

Lawmakers close door to more government openness
Editorial, Daily Leader
March 15, 2010

It is sadly ironic that a few days before the nation marks Sunshine Week, an effort to promote government openness, Mississippi lawmakers killed a bill that could have opened the door to more light shining on government activities in the state.
Read more here

Newspaper exposes dishonesty at JSU
Editorial, Delta Democrat Times
March 15, 2010

Kudos to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger for calling the hand of Jackson State University and exposing its dishonesty about the existence of some public records. In December, the Jackson newspaper filed a public records request for JSU President Ronald Mason‚ his e-mails and presentations regarding a controversial proposed merger of the states three historically black universities.
Read more here

Model rules a step toward accountability
By Charlie Mitchell, Vicksburg Post
March 14, 2010

Way back in 1972, the Legislature consolidated various hints, suspicions and beliefs about access to government documents by adopting the Mississippi Public Records Act. On that brave day lawmakers declared “providing access to public records is a duty of each public body” and “all public records are hereby declared to be public property.
Read more here

Obstacles to being informed about government
By Jeanni Atkins, Meridian Star
March 15, 2010

Citizens who desire to become informed about the issues their local government officials are discussing that will affect their community too often are kept in the dark. There are many subtle, as well as not so subtle, ways of keeping the workings of government secret.
Read more here

Open meetings violators snub law
By David Hampton, Clarion-Ledger
March 14, 2010

This is "Sunshine Week," but it doesn't have anything to do with the beautiful weather of late.
Sunshine Week is set aside each year to bring attention to issues involving openness in government, or rather lack thereof. In Mississippi, the sun may be shining, but there is not a lot of sunshine when it comes to open government.
Read more here

Secrecy has a champion in Blackmon
Editorial, Sun Herald
March 13, 2010

Hell hath no fury like a legislative chairman who feels he has been scorned.
So it should not have been a surprise when Rep. Edward Blackmon Jr., D-Canton, single-handedly killed legislation last week that would have strengthened Mississippi’s Open Meetings law. As chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, Blackmon had already let it be known that he was no friend of legislation introduced by Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis.
Read more here

Fight isn’t over on open meetings
Editorial, Greenwood Commonwealth
Saturday, March 13, 2010

One of the more infuriating aspects of the legislative process in Mississippi is the power that the rules and traditions give to individual lawmakers to kill good ideas. We understand that a legislature should be a deliberative body, one that shuns knee-jerk responses that may have unforeseen and regrettable consequences once put into law.
Read more here

House open meetings bill killed
By Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press
March 12, 2010

A House chairman has killed a bill that was designed to strengthen Mississippi's Open Meetings law, saying a change to the bill amounted to an end-run around his authority. The bill passed the House last week but died Thursday when Judiciary A Committee Chairman Ed Blackmon chose not to remove a hold on it before a deadline.
Read more here


Some Miss. officials strive for open government
By Emily Le Coz, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Sun., Jan. 31, 2010
TUPELO, Miss.--- While much of Mississippi government is comfortably
shrouded in secrecy, some public officials go out of their way to make
meetings and records accessible to the public.

Shameful: Student introduced to ‘open’ city government
Opinion, The Vicksburg Post
Sun., Jan. 31, 2010
VICKSBURG, Miss.---Imagine the dismay of Ole Miss student Jackson Ables. As a class assignment, he was tasked to look at Oxford’s budgets for a couple of years to spot increases or reductions and then try to explain the trends. In Mississippi, as elsewhere, municipal budgets are, by unambiguous law, the most public of public records

Secrecy: Citizens need access
Opinion, The Clarion Ledger
Sun., Jan. 31, 2010
JACKSON, Miss.--- For the past week, Mississippi newspapers throughout the state have published a series of stories concerning problems citizens encounter in simply seeking access to their own government.

Openness should be norm we expect
By David Hampton, Clarion-Ledger
Sun., Jan. 31, 2010
Most of the problems we face with government secrecy could be solved with simple attitude changes.
"Do the right thing" is always the best management policy rule, but one could add "openly" to that old cliched axiom.As Emily Wagster Pettus of The Associated Press pointed out in an article last week, Mississippi has a culture of secrecy.


First Amendment basis for all freedoms
By Jeanni Atkins, Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information
Sat., Jan. 30, 2010
OXFORD, Miss.--- The unalienable rights included in the First Amendment - freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petitioning government with grievances - form the cornerstone of all freedoms we enjoy.


Citizens push to remove state’s secrecy
By Emily Le Coz, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Fri., Jan. 29, 2010
TUPELO, Miss.--- When Edgar Capaning had trouble getting his hometown's draft budget, he could have shrugged and given up. Instead, the New Albany resident called the Mississippi Freedom of Information hotline for advice. Its attorney told Capaning to send his city a letter requesting the draft budget and citing Mississippi's Freedom of Information Act. He did.


Some cities put public info online
By Ben Piper, The Hattiesburg American
Thurs., Jan. 28, 2010
PETAL, Miss.--- Petal Mayor Hal Marx doesn't fancy himself an Internet guru, computer geek or savvy technological mind. . . .Marx's move to communicate with residents online is part of a larger movement by municipalities to provide more public information on the Internet.


Open meetings ensure validity
By Charlie Mitchell, The Vicksburg Post
Wed., Jan. 27, 2010
VICKSBURG, Miss.--- "Ultra vires" is not some exotic form of swine flu. It's not even a super new disposable razor.It's just a dusty old legal doctrine, but it does have continuing significance in most states and could become part of the Open Meetings Act in Mississippi, too.


Mississippi should smash its secret government
Editorial, Sun Herald
Tues., Jan. 26, 2010
Like revenue agents going after an illegal moonshine operation in days of yore, Mississippi legislators ought to smash every vestige of clandestine government known to exist in this state. Lawmakers should take up the cause of open government with a merciless vengeance, and erase every syllable from state statute that the unscrupulous have used to hide their words and deeds from public examination. Public meetings and public records should be laid bare before the public.

Openness in govt. important for all members of public
Editorial, The Daily Leader
Tues., Jan. 26, 2010
BROOKHAVEN, Miss.---When it comes to talk of public records and open meetings, some citizens turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to what many consider little more than a "newspaper issue" or a "reporter's problem.

Public records wait time "vexing"
By Chris Joyner, The Clarion Ledger
January. 26, 2010
JACKSON, Miss.--- Jackson City Councilman Jeff Weill recently learned how difficult it is to get public records in Mississippi - when he wanted to look over some of the city's accounting records.

Q-and-A with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant
By Ben Piper Hattiesburg American
January 26, 2010
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Here's a quick interview with Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, about openness in government
Q: What does transparency in government mean to you?
A: "As the former state auditor, I have always believed that the more transparent a government entity is, the more accountable it is to the taxpayers.â€

Q-and-A with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on open government
by Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
January 25, 2010
Part of a series, Mississippi: The Secret State
JACKSON — Here's a quick interview with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour about openness in government:
Q: What does transparency in government mean to you? When should access be limited or denied?
A: "Clearly when you're talking about legal cases, when you're talking about personnel, when you're talking about competitive bidding situations where, quote, 'openness in government' would let one bidder know what the other bidder is doing or how they're trying to achieve something — I mean, those are some very obvious ways that it would be unfair and inappropriate to have it spread all over the newspaper.â€

Open meetings law needs teeth
Editorial, Enterprise-Journal
January 25, 2010
McComb--We commend the efforts of the Senate Ethics Committee to put some teeth into Mississippi’s Open Meetings Law. Last week, the Ethics Committee approved a bill that would increase the penalties for violations and make the public officials who break the law pay for their misconduct, not the taxpayers.


COMMENTARY: Secrecy and democracy don’t mix
By Geoff Ponder, Sun Herald
January 24, 2010
Harry S. Truman said it best: “Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix.�€
Yet, for some reason, our government leaders, from Washington down to Waveland, often appear hellbent on keeping their actions a secret from those of us who pay their salaries.

Bill would limit costs of obtaining documents
By Anita Lee, Sun Herald
January 25, 2010
GULFPORT — In Oxford, University of Mississippi student Jackson Ables paid $1 per page for copies of a city budget, plus $7 an hour for a city worker to gather the records. In Gulfport, military retiree Walter Thomas paid 25 cents a page for copies of city e-mails and $33.79 an hour to have the records gathered and assembled. His total cost: $1,032.69.Gulfport’s initial estimate for the records was $3,000, so Thomas pared back the request to reduce the cost.

Class assignment leads to public records dispute
By Jackson Ables, University of Mississippi
January 25, 2010
The class assignment I received as a journalism student at the University of Mississippi seemed straightforward enough. I was to compare Oxford’s two most recent city budgets, find any discrepancies and attempt to account for the differences. I entered Oxford City Hall expecting to request the records, wait for copies and head back to campus to start my investigation.

Government secrecy often the rule in Mississippi
Emily Pettus Wagster, Associated Press
January 23, 2010

Open Meetings Law: make violators pay
Editorial, Greenwood Commonwealth
January 22, 2010
We commend the efforts of the Senate Ethics Committee to put some teeth into Mississippi’s Open Meetings Law. This week, the Ethics Committee approved a bill that would increase the penalties for violations and make the public officials who break the law pay for their misconduct, not the taxpayers.

Miss. bill would limit public info on government
By Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press 
January 22, 2010
A bill in the Mississippi House that would ban businesses and government agencies from releasing personal information about employees could make the agencies less responsive to the public, open-government advocates said Thursday.

Secrecy is often the rule in state
Getting information can be difficult task -- from the top down
By: Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press
January 24, 2010
JACKSON, Miss.---Mississippians pay for all levels of government, but that doesn't mean they always can count on public employees to answer their requests for information promptly or that they'll get to see elected officials conduct all their business in the open.

Adversarial stance hurts records request
Friendly approach for info "usually more productive"
By: Tim Kalich, Greenwood Commonwealth
January 24, 2010
GREENWOOD, Miss.---Last year, The Greenwood Commonwealth received a tip that the weeklong inaugural celebration for the new president at Mississippi Valley State University had not generated enough private contributions to pay for itself.

Newspapers shed light on state secrecy
Opinion/The Hattiesburg American
January 24, 2010
HATTIESBURG, Miss.---Several Mississippi newspapers, including the Hattiesburg American, and the Associated Press today begin what has become an annual look at the secrecy that pervades Mississippi government.

Secrecy: Miss. last in open records access
Editorial, Clarion Ledger
While Mississippi has many points of pride, open government certainly isn't one of them.
A recent national survey that measured open records access ranked Mississippi dead last.

The more the public knows, the better
Editorial, Hattiesburg American
Let's say you want to find out if your doctor has been disciplined by the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure. You go online to check the records but can't find anything.

High fees hinder public access
Editorial, Sun Herald
The Biloxi Public School District is a prime example of how a government agency uses exorbitant fees to block public access to public records.

Web data slim on doctors, lawyers
By Tim Doherty, Sun Herald
Can you go on the Internet and see if any serious disciplinary actions have been taken against your doctor or lawyer? In Mississippi, the answers are yes — and sort of. For physicians, decisions can be found on the Web site of the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure by sifting through reports of the board’s monthly disciplinary actions.

Online: No option in MS
Americans can easily learn about their state songs and state flowers with a quick search on the Internet, but most will have a harder time checking whether their children’s school buses are safe or a local gas station is charging too much. 

Openness in government? Mississippi last again
By Emily Le Coz, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Mississippi ranks last once again.  A recent national survey found although many states put basic public records on the Internet, Mississippi still requires people to request most documents by mail or in person, and sometimes the state requires people to pay for the records. It’s a horse-and-buggy system in a world where people elsewhere fly first-class.

Advocates: Demand open government in Mississippi
By Sheila Byrd, Associated Press
Open government advocates say Mississippi can do a better job of providing access to information, but citizens have to demand it.

Sunshine Week: Shine bright light on government
by Jackson Citizen Patriot
Last year's hotly contested elections and a new administration in Washington are leading many to pay close attention to government at all levels these days. The concept of Sunshine Week, then, should be as powerful as ever.

Web rankings affirm state’s secret ways
Editorial, Greenwood Commonwealth 
This newspaper has been printing this week a series of articles about secrecy in government that was a collaboration of several news organizations as well as the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information. A major focus for the series -- a second annual effort -- is the paucity of information that Mississippi makes available to the public via the Internet compared to other states.

Mississippi schools lead way in online information: Consumers keep pushing bar higher in calling for access
By Chris Joyner, Clarion-Ledger
Years ago when Richland real estate agent Bill Watkins showed a house to a young couple he brought along brochures with information about local schools to help seal the deal.  These days, the handouts stay in the office.

Private contracts with public agencies should not thwart public scrutiny
Editorial, Sun Herald
When a public entity contracts with a private firm, that contract is a public record in Mississippi. But to avoid that scrutiny, Global Tel-Link of Mobile obtained a pre-emptive protective order requiring the Mississippi Department of Corrections to keep the details of their contract secret.

Promise of open records touted:  Candidates share ideas for running a transparent mayor's office
By Chris Joyner, The Clarion Ledger
Most of Jackson's mayoral candidates have promised an open and transparent administration, and a few even have concrete ideas on how to accomplish that.

A single crack weakens the strongest law
Editorial, Sun Herald
The great strength at the core of the U.S. Constitution is the principle that all laws apply equally to all people. Exceptions to the law almost always create unfairness and loopholes for abuse, eventually resulting in disrepect for the law itself.

Openness: Commission could set new tone for state
Editorial, Vicksburg Post
A series of stories reported by Mississippi journalists during last week’s “Sunshine Week” observance lamented that Mississippi is not keeping pace with other states in placing on the

States gather tons of consumer info, but Mississippi slow to share 
By Charlie Mitchell, The Vicksburg Post
Internet information of interest to consumers that is contained in public records.
Easily found on the opening page of the Florida Department of Health Web site is a link to a 2007 executive order by the state’s governor, Charlie Crist, a Republican. The order created a new Open Government Commission because, Crist says, “Open and accessible government is the key to establishing and maintaining the people’s trust and confidence in their government and its ability to effectively serve its citizens.”

Openness needed even for officials
David Hampton, Clarion-Ledger
Media representatives have to deal with recalcitrant officials all too often when it comes to seeking information. It is just part of the job, although it shouldn't have to be. At least we have the ability to inform the public when it happens and resources to oppose violations of the law.


2008 Articles:
Despite sunshine laws, Mississippi government often surrounded by secrecy

By Emily Wagster Pettus and Dan Davis
The Associated Press and Hattiesburg American
February 10, 2008

Taxpayers deserve accountability
By Stan Tiner, The Sun Herald
February 10, 2008

Put the public back in control of public business
Editorial Board, The Sun Herald
February 10, 2008

Clarion-Ledger File downloads

Open records law
Open meetings law

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Analysis: Attitude, laws facilitate keeping records closed
By Chris Joyner, The Clarion-Ledger
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Challenging government secrecy can put hole in people’s pocketbooks
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Mississippi lagging in digital requirement for campaign finance forms
By Geoff Pender, The Sun Herald
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Sources of Mississippi candidates money often difficult to trace
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February 12, 2008

Officials, residents weigh in on sharing of crime records
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Openness in govt should be a priority
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Open government means better government for all
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Secret government is bad government
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Public information laws need backbone
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Secrecy: Crime reports should be more open
Editorial, Clarion-Ledger
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Working together, press and police can serve and protect the public even better
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New Jackson police chief reverses course on secrecy
By Chris Joyner
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McMillan open on crime records, or is he?
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Couple frustrated by inability to get  records in son's killing
By Emily LeCoz, Northeast Mississippi  Daily Journal
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Harrison jail beating prompts newspaper's pursuit of records
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Secrets don't make friends
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Democracy should not be a home for secrecy
Editorial, The Bolivar Commercial
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Shine bright light on coaches? packages
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February 14, 2008

Some groups not covered by Miss. sunshine laws
By Patsy Brumfield, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
February 14, 2008

In Mississippi, public minutes sometimes hard to come by
By Chris Joyner, Clarion-Ledger
February 14, 2008

Board operated quietly in search for USM coast campus land
By Melissa M. Scallaii, Sun Herald
February 14, 2008

Why do good deeds need to be done in the shadows?
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Miss. Sports foundation often surrounded by secrecy
By Rusty Hampton, Clarion-Ledger
February 14, 2008

Secrecy: Quasi-public groups should be open
Editorial, Clarion-Ledger
February 14, 2008


Sweeping ethics bill passes in Senate
By Emily Pettus Wagster, Associated Press
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Nuts and bolts: a how-to primer for open meetings in

By Anita Lee, Sun Herald
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Nuts and bolts on what you can or can't get your hands on
By Matt Williamson, Enterprise-Journal
February 15, 2008

Citizens lead way in challenging government
Chris Joyner, Clarion-Ledger
February 15, 2008

Want to know the salaries of public officials? Write Now
Chris Joyner, Clarion-Ledger
February 15, 2008

Secrecy: ?Openness? of government is variable
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Bryant favors open policy
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February 17, 2008

Public has a voice in sunshine laws
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FOIA gives people access to workings of government for 40

By Jeanni Atkins, Mississippi Center for Freedom of
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Secrecy in state, local governments: how they shut you out
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, C

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Secrecy: there are sunshine cures
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Citizens can open doors of government
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Secrecy: Citizens need to know about crimes
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Today's the day to boost open government and state economy
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Tremont family still fighting for information
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Secrecy: Demand more openness
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