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States Should Strengthen Open Meeting Laws

Monday, Sep. 20, 2010

In Mississippi, if an elected official violates the open meeting law, he or she is not fined -- the legislative body pays the $100 penalty.

Tom Hood, director of the state Ethics Commission, says this system takes responsibility away from the individual. He has suggested a stronger law that would increase the fine to $1,000 per penalty, and make the individual office holders accountable.

Although neither proposal has been adopted by the legislature, Hood and others who spoke at a recent Freedom of Information panel also urge adoption of new regulations aking it easier for the public to access email and other records.

"If we don't know what our elected officials are doing in our name with our money, then we're not living in a democracy -- and we can't make informed decisions about who to vote for (or) any kind of issue that's in the public debate."

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