NEFAC logo 11-11Sunshine Week Edition
The NEFAC Report
March 2012 
   Keeping the conversation going: a sampling of what New England news media had to say during Sunshine Week on the struggle for transparency at every level of government activity.
Officials just say no to information requests
   BROCKTON, MASS. - Blacked-out meeting transcripts in West Bridgewater. Video withheld of a public meeting in Abington. Reporters charged for public records in Easton.
   Some local government officials stonewall when asked for access to public documents and records, whether because of misunderstandings, lack of information or obstinacy. Some city and town officials have better training than others of the state public records law. The ease of getting information can also depend on what information is being sought.
   "There's an extremely uneven level of understanding on what the public records law requires," said media lawyer Rob Bertsche of Boston-based Prince Lobel Tye LLP.  Read more

- Alex Bloom, Brockton (Mass.) Enterprise


Also from The Enterprise:  

Town websites easy to use but short on info 

Some bright spots, but not all are committed to openness
   Each year, Sunshine Week reveals a wealth of information about the activity of municipal officials and how government chooses to spend your tax money.
   Last week, readers learned how overtime payments boost public employees' pensions; how officials in Nashua use city-issued credit cards; and what retired state judges and Nashua Department of Public Works employees are paid through their pensions.
   Sunshine Week, and the requests for public information that come along with it, also reveals the willingness of your government officials to operate openly and in accordance with the state's Right-to-Know Law.  
   For example, a commitment to reveal public police data in Nashua led to the creation of a new interactive crime map, which can be found at

- The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.


Read more from The Telegraph's Sunshine Week Reports  

Sunshine shows high salaries on CT state payroll
   Yesterday ended Sunshine Week, an annual effort to educate Americans about all the public records they have a right to, and to remind government employees about the dangers of secrecy.
   Democracy can operate no other way.
   This year government is a little more open in Connecticut, the light on public records a little brighter because of, a website launched several months ago to show taxpayers how the state spent their money.
   It reveals that many Connecticut employees are very well paid, as in six-figure well paid.  Read more

- Angela Carella, Stamford (Conn.) Advocate


Victory: MA courts undertake live-streaming experiment
   Sunshine Week, the newspaper industry's annual call for transparency in government, was answered this year with a significant court victory here in Massachusetts.
   The Supreme Judicial court this week opened the state's courts to 21st century media, ruling that the First Amendment and the state Declaration of Rights protect the right to livestream video from criminal court proceedings.
   The SJC gave a green light to OpenCourt, an experimental project run by WBUR that has been live-streaming daily proceedings in Quincy District Court and archiving them for public access over the Internet. Unlike cable TV programs that follow sensational trials, OpenCourt records the daily gavel-to-gavel action, most of it routine, at the lowest level of the state's criminal court system.   Read more

- MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass


It's all about your access to information
   With the sun setting Saturday evening on another week, it also sets on Sunshine Week - one seven-day stretch out of the entire year when journalists recognize laws like the Freedom of Information Act and hope to educate their readership on its importance.
   So, here we go readers. This is why you buy newspapers, why you seek their websites and why journalists do what we do. It's all about information and unfettered access to that information, both by the public and by journalists.
   The importance of public records and the communities entrusting them are highly significant. Journalists should thrive on public records, but so should the public. Public records, whether electronic, written or printed, define a community and its leaders.
   They control your tax dollars and provide undeniable proof of truth.
   Sunshine Week is a celebration of all things public records, but also an opportunity for the public to engage and understand the importance of these documents. While it isn't an official holiday, for journalists it's kind of like a five-day assault on anything and everything we can get our frantic little paws on.  Read more

- Ricky Campbell, The Register Citizen, Torrington, Conn.


Editorial: Consistency needed in approach to openness
   Those fighting to protect public access to the judicial process won a round this week but other pernicious court decisions threaten to unjustifiably cloak justice in a shroud of secrecy.
   The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday ruled against an attempt to prohibit live video streaming of proceedings at Quincy District Court, which is participating in a pilot program to test how to incorporate modern media technology in the courtroom.
   The argument for censoring the program's work centered on the idea that video of certain proceedings threatened the rights and safety of victims and defendants.  Read more

- The Patriot-Ledger, Quincy, Mass.


Just in time to shine light on a bad proposal
   Just in time for Sunshine Week, the national renewal of America's commitment to open government, comes a gambit by Hartford to expand representatives' power to conduct business in secret.
   Bad in and of itself, this particular strike against transparency would invite abuse on a level that could devastate the public's democratic right to know about what those in power are doing, or contemplating.
   The bill, currently before the Legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee, would greatly increase what state and municipal boards could discuss with attorneys in secret executive sessions.
   It must not pass.  Read more                          

- Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn.  


"Open Checkbook" helps demystify state spending
    SPRINGFIELD, Mass - Ever wonder how the state spends your tax dollars? A new initiative in transparency now allows the curious to open the state's "checkbook" online and take a look for themselves.
   Launched by State Treasurer Steven Grossman and other state officials late last year, the Massachusetts Open Checkbook website provides a searchable database that details such aspects of state spending as payroll and pension information and payment details for over 50,800 vendors.
   "Every citizen has the right to know where and how their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent," Grossman said.
   The site can be found at
   The state is taking a leadership role in the push towards more transparency, said Charlie Schweik, associate professor at the Center for Public Policy and Administration and Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts.  Read more                               

- George Graham, The Republican, Springfield, Mass.   


Media will be allowed into arguments on child abuse case
   CONCORD, N.H. - Local media will be allowed to attend oral arguments before the New Hampshire Supreme Court today in a case regarding whether parents accused of child abuse and neglect have the right to legal counsel, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
   Attorney Gregory V. Sullivan of Malloy & Sullivan, on behalf of New Hampshire Public Radio and the New Hampshire Union Leader, petitioned the state Supreme Court on Monday to open the proceeding. An Associated Press reporter also petitioned the court for access.
   On Monday afternoon, the court ruled the session will be open to the public because the attorneys involved did not object and no confidential information is expected to be revealed.
   "Although certain briefs and other filings in this case contain confidential information, the court understands from discussions with counsel who are scheduled to argue the case that counsel do not intend to reveal any confidential information during the course of oral argument," the court wrote in its ruling.
Read more

 - New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester, N.H.     


A galactic take on Sunshine Week
   Most of us, perhaps all, when we get up in the morning and brush our teeth, rarely ponder how much in common we might have with Arthur Dent.
   Arthur, one morning while brushing his teeth looked out the window and saw bulldozers had arrived to destroy his house. The crew foreman, Mr. L. Prosser (unwitting descendent of Genghis Khan), showed little sympathy.
   After all, plans for a highway bypass, which included knocking down Arthur's home, had been in the display office for nine months: "In the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard."
   Those of you smiling in recognition know that Arthur Dent is the unfortunate protagonist of Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."   Read more

 - Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn.     


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