- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The most common Sunshine Law violations in Missouri include closed-session discussions on issues that should be open to the public, according to a report released Monday by state Auditor Nicole Galloway.

In 25 of 187 audits conducted between January 2014 and June 2015, there was some sort of violation of the state’s open-meetings-and-records laws, spokeswoman Gena Terlizzi said. That amounts to problems with about 13 percent of entities audited. Sunshine Law issues were found mainly in county governments, school districts and cities.

Galloway said in a statement that the Sunshine Law “exists to ensure government operates with full accountability and transparency.”

“The whole point of the Sunshine Law is for citizens to understand how the decisions made affect them,” she said in a later interview with The Associated Press, citing examples such as the use of taxpayer dollars and road maintenance.

The noncompliance rate is slightly down from the roughly 15 percent of the nearly 300 audits former Auditor Tom Schweich conducted over 2012 and 2013.

Problems raised in Galloway’s report ranged from discussing topics in private that should be reviewed in public, not adequately documenting why closed meetings were necessary and not properly documenting decisions made in closed session.

“Making public in an open meeting the final disposition of matters discussed in closed meetings would provide for transparency and openness regarding these matters,” the report notes.

Galloway said she hopes the report helps improve accountability in government. She recommends better documentation and only discussing allowed topics in closed meetings.

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