Photo: Media groups push back after fake news defined US elections

(For a full-size photograph, click the thumbnail below.)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017 AND THEREAFTER-FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 file photo, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28 of Salisbury, N.C., surrenders to police in Washington. Welch, who said he was investigating a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizza place, fired an assault rifle inside the restaurant on Sunday injuring no one, police and news reports said. Fake news, social media bots, a post-fact world. One of the great lessons of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is that people could not _ or would not _ distinguish between actual news stories and fabrications. (Sathi Soma via AP)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017 AND THEREAFTER-FILE – In this Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 file photo, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28 of Salisbury, N.C., surrenders to police in Washington. Welch, who said he was investigating a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of a pizza place, fired an assault rifle inside the restaurant on Sunday injuring no one, police and news reports said. Fake news, social media bots, a post-fact world. One of the great lessons of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is that people could not _ or would not _ distinguish between actual news stories and fabrications. (Sathi Soma via AP)

Posted in Toolkit

Photos: Advocates say First Amendment can withstand Trump attacks

(For full-size photographs, click the thumbnails below.)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017 AND THEREAFTER-FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 file photo, demonstrators stand with U.S. flags and signs in a show of solidarity with the press in front of The New York Times building in New York. The White House banned several major news outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, from an off-camera briefing, known as a "press gaggle," two days earlier. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017 AND THEREAFTER-FILE – In this Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 file photo, demonstrators stand with U.S. flags and signs in a show of solidarity with the press in front of The New York Times building in New York. The White House banned several major news outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, from an off-camera briefing, known as a “press gaggle,” two days earlier. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017 AND THEREAFTER-In this Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 photo, reporters raise their hands as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes questions during a daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. In 2017, journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week at an extraordinary moment in the relationship between the presidency and the press. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017 AND THEREAFTER-In this Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 photo, reporters raise their hands as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes questions during a daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. In 2017, journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week at an extraordinary moment in the relationship between the presidency and the press. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Posted in Toolkit

Amid attacks, journalists need to focus on Trump’s actions

Slug:
BC-US–Sunshine Week-Rhee Column,ADV12

Headline:
Amid attacks, journalists need to focus on Trump’s actions

Summary:
A president who is all over the map on policy is so single-minded about going after journalists every chance he gets. In this new reality, reporters need to be aggressive, but also careful. Journalists can’t get too defensive, or distracted from doing our jobs, or lose sight of what Trump is actually doing _ giving Wall Street free rein, looking out for the wealthy and tearing down government.

Extended Headline:
A president who is all over the map on policy is so single-minded about going after journalists every chance he gets

Editors Note:
( ); FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. EST.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By FOON RHEE

Bytitle:
The Sacramento Bee

Pub Eds note:
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One of a package of stories marking Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

As I’ve listened to President Donald Trump go on tirades against the “very dishonest” media, I’ve tried not to take his criticism personally.
Lord knows, I’ve made my share of mistakes in my career. But they’ve never been on purpose, or out of malice.
In fact, after more than 30 years, I can still remember the phone call from a grieving relative when I misspelled a name in an obituary (I wrote Ronald instead of Roland). This was before articles were published online, so print newspapers were the permanent record. The man’s family had to live with my error. However Trump bashes journalists, he’ll never make me feel as bad as I did back then.
So here’s the truth:
The press is not the opposition party. The media is not the enemy of the American people. Negative stories are not fake news.
And when Trump keeps making these claims, he isn’t just attacking the press; he is chipping away at one of the pillars of our democracy.
It means something that a president who is all over the map on policy is so single-minded about going after reporters every chance he gets. In a recent tweet, Trump raised the stakes, calling the media “a great danger to our country.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, Trump again bashed “fake news,” though he’s the one with only a passing relationship with the truth. He complained about leaks and anonymous sources, though his administration is perfectly happy to take advantage of both. He even claimed that the media says its coverage can’t be criticized because of freedom of the press.
“I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me,” he said. “Nobody.”
He has chutzpah, I’ll give him that.
But what’s more alarming is that he also said the media “doesn’t represent the people, it never will represent the people and we’re going to do something about it.”
It’s not clear what the president plans. He talked during the campaign about changing the law so that it’s easier for politicians to sue for libel and slander — a terrible idea that would discourage robust reporting.
And what if an unhinged supporter takes Trump’s rhetoric seriously and literally and physically assaults a journalist? What will the president say then?
Trump is choosing a phrase — “enemy of the people” — that has been used by communist dictators and Nazi propagandists.
Unfortunately, only a few Republican leaders stood up to that attack on a free press: “Without it,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, “I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
Trying to control coverage, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has called only on friendlier media outlets at some news conferences. He took it a step further during a recent question-and-answer session, blocking reporters from several major news organizations that have had critical coverage of Trump, including looking into the administration’s Russia connections.
Another part of the White House strategy, it seems, is to trap reporters. When there are leaks, officials sometimes wait until after the news story is published to respond. This apparently happened earlier this month when The Associated Press reported that a draft memo showed the administration was considering calling up National Guard troops for immigration raids.
It’s a cynical ploy. The administration can see how popular its ideas are and pull them back if they’re too controversial. When the most extreme versions don’t happen, it further damages the media’s credibility. And if the public is unsure about what’s real, it opens up more room for Trump to do what he wants.
So reporters need to be aggressive, but also careful. Journalists can’t get too defensive, or distracted from doing our jobs, or lose sight of what Trump is actually doing — giving Wall Street free rein, looking out for the wealthy and tearing down government.
This is going to be a long struggle, day after day. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, made that clear, declaring at CPAC that the war with the media is “not going to get better. It’s going to get worse.”
Yet, times of crisis like this bring clarity. Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, said Sunday on CNN that the mission of news organizations is clearer than it has been in years — to hold Trump and others in power accountable.
He’s absolutely right, but it’s more important for the public to support a free press. And this would be a good time, with Sunshine Week, the annual recognition of the importance of a public’s right to know, beginning Sunday.
It’s encouraging that a new poll found that Americans trust their favorite news source over Trump, 67 percent to 29 percent.
It’s also great to hear from people like Charles Marchant of Placerville: “I just want to say thank you for being here, for doing your job and for doing your part in our democratic system,” he wrote in a letter to the editor.
“I write not to grind any particular ax, but to let you know I do NOT consider the press my enemy. I value the hard work you do, which is a vital role in our society.”
Thanks a lot, Mr. Marchant. We’ll keep doing our best, whatever President Trump throws our way.
___
Foon Rhee is an associate editor and editorial writer for The Sacramento Bee. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/foonrhee

Posted in Toolkit

In Texas, government denials of record requests have soared

Slug:
BC-US–Sunshine Week-Texas Records,ADV12

Headline:
In Texas, government denials of record requests have soared

Summary:
The public records law in Texas says government officials typically must have the state attorney general review decisions that deny public access to records. The number of those denials has jumped from 5,000 to more than 27,000 in 15 years. Some experts say the prevailing attitude among governments in Texas has turned from a presumption that records should almost always be available to a belief that officials should release as little as possible.

Extended Headline:
The public records law in Texas says government officials typically must have the state attorney general review decisions that deny public access to records

Editors Note:
(Eds: With AP Photos. ); FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. EST.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By TERRI LANGFORD

Bytitle:
The Dallas Morning News

Dateline:
DALLAS

Pub Eds note:
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One of a package of stories marking Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

DALLAS (AP) — When Texans ask state and local officials for public records detailing their operations, more and more the answer is no.
The reason why is in dispute, partly because of the lack of some public records.
Among the materials that are, in theory, publicly available: checks cut by a school board, tapes of 911 emergency calls, text messages between city council members.
A quirk of the Texas records law, adopted almost 45 years ago, says that when officials deny the public the right to see something, they usually have to run that decision by the state attorney general’s office.
The number of those denials has been soaring. In the fiscal year that ended in August 2001, governments forwarded about 5,000 denied record requests to the attorney general’s office for review. That number had jumped to more than 27,000 in 2016. Much of the increase has occurred in the last decade.
The overall number of denials is actually larger than the data indicate. More than 80 agencies and local governments have gotten permission from the attorney general to automatically deny certain kinds of requests, such as those that reveal a person’s birth date.
Some experts say the prevailing attitude among governments in Texas has turned from a presumption that records should almost always be available to a belief that officials should release as little as possible.
“I think more governments have become more desirous of withholding information, many of them out there have a knee-jerk reaction,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, which is largely supported by journalism organizations.
But lawyers and government spokespeople say they are being flooded with demands for documents, many of which don’t exist or that legally they aren’t allowed to make public.
“Requestors are submitting more requests,” said Justin Gordon, the open records chief for the Texas attorney general’s office.
Reporters say one reason may be that officials have started demanding that they file open-records requests for information the government used to release without question.
Getting to the truth is tough, in part because no statewide data exists on the total number of requests, so there is no way to know if the overall number is rising as fast as the attorney general reviews.
It’s also unclear if certain kinds of requestors — such as reporters, private citizens, public-interest groups or businesses — account for an outsized portion of the denials.
The attorney general’s office told The Dallas Morning News it could not release the names of those asking for records without weeks of review to ensure that every original requestor is not covered by privacy exemptions. For example, if the original requestor was a victim of a crime, his or her name could not be released.
The office says it does not keep tabs on how many requests involve certain kinds of information, and does not analyze the outcome of its reviews. It does post its rulings online, but in a format that is difficult to search and does not include the names of requestors.
In at least some cases, the office makes government officials release some of the information they want to withhold, according to a review by The News of requests for the month of July going back more than a decade. But how often that happens is unclear.
The two most populous cities in Texas, Dallas and Houston, actually referred fewer cases to the attorney general in 2016 than they did in 2005. But some smaller cities and large suburbs, especially in North Texas, submitted far more, The News found.
Plano, the fast-growing suburban city 20 miles northeast of Dallas, asked for 85 reviews in 2015, up from none in 2005, according to state records.
City attorney Paige Mims said officials are simply following state law and that many denied requests involve police records.
Curtis Howard, legal adviser for the Plano Police Department, said the percentage of referrals had been holding steady at about 11 percent a year, but the sheer number of requests has jumped in the last few years.
In 2015, Howard and his staff fielded 5,670 requests for records from the police agency, he said. In 2016, that number rose to 7,055 requests, a 24 percent jump.
For the most part, police arrest records can be released, as long as someone has been charged, he noted. But arrests that do not result in a conviction or acquittal are not required to be made public.
Police record requests are made by the media for newsgathering, but also by private citizens for use in divorces, vetting of potential employees and litigation.
In Killeen, 60 miles southwest of Waco near Fort Hood, the number of information requests and the number of initial denials are rising fast.
The city received 1,811 requests in 2010 and initially denied 173, or 9.5 percent, and forwarded those to the attorney general for review. Six years later, the number of requests had grown to 2,910. Of those 603, almost 21 percent, were sent to the attorney general.
Traci Briggs, Killeen’s deputy city attorney, said many of the records people request are complaints that can’t be released under privacy rules, describing them as “who turned in my dog, who reported the water dripping behind my house” records.
Others pertain to one of the broadest exceptions to the public-records act, which allows law enforcement to keep information sealed if they think making the material public would interfere with a criminal investigation. They do not have to prove that there is, in fact, an investigation underway.
Killeen recently got permission to automatically reject requests that fall under the open-investigation exemption, though it must continue to release basic information.
Last year, The News and other media organizations filed dozens of open records to the Dallas Police Department for information involving the July 7 ambush that left five police officers and suspect Micah Johnson dead.
Little has been released other than the 911 calls and initial warrant information. The police are citing the open-investigation exemption. Last October, the attorney general’s office sided with the police.
A pair of Texas Supreme Court rulings in 2015 have further undermined the public’s access to government records by placing information about many private business deals with governmental entities off-limits.
In Boeing vs. Paxton and the Greater Houston Partnership v. Paxton, the Texas attorney general concluded that information about Boeing held by the Port Authority of San Antonio should be publicly released. But the aviation manufacturer sued, and the Texas high court sided with Boeing’s argument that making public the information at issue would give its competitors an advantage.
That ruling has had a chilling effect. The city of McAllen used this ruling to keep secret how much it paid singer Julio Iglesias to perform at a Christmas parade. Houston used it to keep secret the number of permits issued to ride-sharing service Uber.
State Sen. Kirk Wilson, D-Austin, told a recent legislative hearing that governments used the Boeing decision to deny about 600 requests for public information in Texas in 2016.
“It’s impossible for me to imagine how a final contract with the government shouldn’t be made public,” Watson said.
In the case involving the Greater Houston Partnership, the nonprofit that handles economic development for the city convinced the court that because it does not rely solely on public money, it is not subject to the state public records law.
Legislators have introduced bills they say will help to restore access that the court rulings removed. Some would force government agencies to release all final contracts. Others would require a private entity to comply with open-records law if it provides services once provided by a public agency.
Gordon, the head of the attorney general’s open-records division, said the two rulings have decreased transparency but have done little to impact the workload for the 59 staffers in his office.
Has the staff of the office increased to handle the surge in denials? Unclear. The agency instructed The News to file an open-records request to get an answer.

Posted in Toolkit

Trump’s actions raise fears about access to government data

Slug:
AP-US–Sunshine Week-Information Under Attack,ADV12

Headline:
Trump’s actions raise fears about access to government data

Summary:
Previous presidential transitions have triggered fears about access to government data, but not on the scope seen in the early weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency. Some researchers, historians and internet activists are so concerned they have thrown themselves into “data rescue” sessions nationwide, spending their weekends downloading and archiving federal databases they fear could soon be taken down or obscured.

Extended Headline:
Previous presidential transitions have triggered fears about access to government data, but not on the scope seen in the early weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency

Editors Note:
(Eds: Reference to ‘last week’ in sentence about White House visitor log is CQ for the week of March 12. An abridged version also is moving. ); FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. EST.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By STUART LEAVENWORTH and ADAM ASHTON

Bytitle:
McClatchy

Dateline:
WASHINGTON

Pub Eds note:
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One of a package of stories marking Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wondering who is visiting the White House? The web-based search has gone dark. Curious about climate change? Some government sites have been softened or taken down. Worried about racial discrimination in housing? Laws have been introduced to bar federal mapping of such disparities. Federal rules protecting whistleblowers? At least one has been put on hold.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has made a series of moves that have alarmed groups with a stake in public access to information — historians, librarians, journalists, climate scientists, internet activists, to name a few. Some are so concerned they have thrown themselves into “data rescue” sessions nationwide, where they spend their weekends downloading and archiving federal databases they fear could soon be taken down or obscured.
Previous presidential transitions have triggered fears about access to government data, but not on this scope.
“What is unprecedented is the scale of networking and connectivity of groups working on this, and the degree it is being driven by librarians and scientists and professors,” said Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that tracks transparency in government.
The White House declined to comment, but Trump’s supporters say the administration’s detractors are overreacting. Trump is committed to open government, said Ben Marchi, a Trump supporter and Republican operative. In a recent interview with McClatchy, Marchi noted how, prior to announcing the selection of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the Supreme Court, the White House released a list of 21 candidates under consideration.
Yet moves by the Trump administration have helped stoke the fears. In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed animal cruelty data from its website, prompting protests from animal welfare advocates, including the Humane Society, which has filed a lawsuit against the USDA. Some Democrats in Congress also have protested.
Also in February, the Trump administration suspended an Obama regulation aimed at protecting whistleblowers who work for Department of Energy contractors. The regulation would have permitted civil penalties against contractors that retaliate against whistleblowers. Supporters of the rule say that its rescission will make it harder for contract workers, including those working at the federal government’s nuclear facilities, to come forward with complaints of waste, abuse and safety concerns.
“Is this reaction overblown?” asked Howard, in response to a question about the pushback by open government groups.
Trump, he said, has made clear he will seek to prosecute leakers and labeled the media an “enemy of the people.” He’s dismissed climate change science and raised questions about the use of vaccines.
“The reaction we are seeing is driven by concerns unique to this administration,” he said. “It’s because of the antipathy this president has shown toward government statistics and scientific knowledge.”
During his eight years in office, President Barack Obama was hardly a darling of open government advocates. His Justice Department prosecuted nine cases against whistleblowers and leakers, compared to three by all other previous administrations. In one of those investigations, the government secretly seized records for telephone lines and switchboards that more than 100 reporters for The Associated Press used in their Washington bureau and elsewhere.
But Obama also took some steps to increase transparency, including establishing a web-based log of visitors to the White House. That log allowed journalists and others to track lobbying at the White House, including links between the Obama administration and the pharmaceutical industry.
But easy access to the log disappeared after Trump was sworn in and the National Archives and Records Administration stopped paying a contractor to maintain an embedded web application for the Obama-era visitation records. They are still available at the Obama White House archive, but only on zip files that are difficult to download and analyze.
As of last week, the Trump administration had not built a web page with information about recent visitors to the White House, although it has said it will post such records “on an ongoing basis, once they become available.”
Other information of interest has also disappeared. The phone book for employees at the U.S. Department of Energy has been removed from DOE’s website. Several federal websites have been altered to eliminate or tone down evidence linking human activities to global climate change, according to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a group that has been tracking changes in federal and state websites.
One of these websites is “Energy Kids,” which the Energy Information Administration launched nearly 20 years ago to help teach school children about the sources of energy. Since Trump took office, the educational website has been altered, including the removal of two pie charts reporting the link between coal and greenhouse gas emissions, according to ProPublica, which based its report on tracking by the data and governance initiative.
All incoming administrations put their ideological stamp on federal websites and accessibility of government data. When George W. Bush was president, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attempted to close several of its public research libraries, triggering a blowback from environmental groups and Congress.
Yet Trump’s election, like no other, has set off alarm bells for those who want to keep public information public. Fearing that federal data could soon be rendered inaccessible, librarians, scientists and other professionals started networking on how to salvage what they could.
“We started thinking, how could we organize a bucket brigade that could draw attention to the ways that data is vulnerable?” said Bethany Wiggin, founding director of the environmental humanities program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wiggin and others started organizing dozens of “data rescue” sessions nationwide, in which net activists were invited to bring their laptops and ideas for federal data sets deemed vulnerable. Over the last two weeks of February, organizers held data rescues in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Connecticut, Texas and Wisconsin. Two more were scheduled this weekend in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Even before these coalitions started organizing, scientists threw themselves into the task of archiving data of professional interest.
For several decades, Dr. Garen Wintemute has been preparing reports on gun violence and the workings of the gun industry. An emergency room doctor, he grew interested in gun violence prevention in the early 1980s, when he treated gunshot victims at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand.
On the day Trump was inaugurated, Wintemute got a call from a colleague, who reported that the White House had removed a climate change page from its website. Fearing that federal data on gun violence might soon similarly vanish under a president with close ties to the National Rifle Association, Wintemute called together his partners at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. He then ticked off the records he wanted to archive.
Within minutes, the team was downloading a crime victimization survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. They scoured the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, gathering data on retail gun sales. They preserved mortality records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a field for deaths caused by firearms.
Wintemute said he could imagine a scenario in which either Congress or the White House ordered that data stricken.
“I don’t think the CDC would do that of their own volition, but they might be directed to,” said Wintemute, whose team in a single day archived all the key federal records they deemed vulnerable. They are now stored on a secure server at UC Davis.
Access to existing federal records is one concern of data rescuers. The other is whether a Trump-led federal government will continue to collect information as the government has in the past.
Earlier this year, a group of Republicans that included U.S. Sen Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona introduced legislation to undo a 2015 Obama regulation aimed at reducing past patterns of housing segregation. The “Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act of 2017” includes a provision that bars federal funding to “design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.”
Open government groups see this bill as a blatant effort to limit federal research and a precursor of things to come. Rubio, however, said the legislation is squarely aimed at stopping the federal government from dictating zoning decisions to local governments.
“Top-down, one-size-fits-all regulations by Washington bureaucrats won’t help make affordable housing more accessible to those who need it,” Rubio said in a statement to McClatchy.
How Trump may approach access to federal data is not entirely known, but one upcoming appointment will provide a signal. In coming weeks, the administration will appoint a director to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The office is a powerful but little-known agency. Part of the Office of Management and Budget, it is charged with guiding federal policy on information technology, information policy, privacy and statistics.
At a recent data rescue event in Washington, D.C., a Georgetown University professor urged those in attendance to pay attention to Trump’s appointment.
“That is going to be a key position in the federal collection of data going forward,” said Raphael Calel, an assistant professor in Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy. “If you have congressmen to call, senators to call, that is one to keep an eye on.”

Posted in Toolkit

Advocates say First Amendment can withstand Trump attacks

Slug:
BC-US–Sunshine Week-First Amendment,ADV12-1st Ld-Writethru

Headline:
Advocates say First Amendment can withstand Trump attacks

Summary:
As journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week, featuring panels and other events nationwide devoted to the need for open government, free speech advocates called the Trump administration the most hostile to the press in memory. They listed a wide range of potential dangers, from legal action to encouraging distrust and even violence. At the same time, advocates say that the media, at least on legal issues, is well positioned to withstand Trump and that the First Amendment is stronger than ever.

Extended Headline:
As journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week, featuring panels and other events nationwide devoted to the need for open government, free speech advocates called the Trump administration the most hostile to the press in memory

Editors Note:
(Eds: Adds full Jefferson quote to second paragraph. With AP Photos. ); FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. EST.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By HILLEL ITALIE

Bytitle:
AP National Writer

Dateline:
NEW YORK

Pub Eds note:
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One of a package of stories marking Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

NEW YORK (AP) — Whenever Donald Trump fumes about “fake news” or labels the press “the enemy of the people,” First Amendment scholar David L. Hudson Jr. hears echoes of other presidents — but a breadth and tone that are entirely new.

Trump may not know it, but it was Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” said Hudson, a law professor at Vanderbilt University.

“But what’s unusual with Trump is the pattern of disparagement and condemnation of virtually the entire press corps. We’ve had presidents who were embittered and hated some of the press — Richard Nixon comes to mind. … But I can’t think of a situation where you have this rat-a-tat attack on the press on virtually a daily basis, for the evident purpose of discrediting it.”

Journalism marks its annual Sunshine Week, which draws attention to the media’s role in advocating for government transparency, at an extraordinary moment in the relationship between the presidency and the press.

First Amendment advocates call the Trump administration the most hostile to the press and free expression in memory. In words and actions, they say, Trump and his administration have threatened democratic principles and the general spirit of a free society: The demonizing of the media and emphatic repetition of falsehoods. Fanciful scenarios of voter fraud and scorn for dissent. The refusal to show Trump’s tax returns and the removal of information from government websites.

And in that battle with the Trump administration, the media do not have unqualified public support.

According to a recent Pew survey, nearly 90 percent of respondents favored fair and open elections while more than 80 percent value the system of government checks and balances. But around two-thirds called it vital for the media to have the right to criticize government leaders; only half of Republicans were in support. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans by a margin of 53-37 trust the media over Trump to tell the truth about important issues; among Republicans, 78 percent favored Trump.

“We’re clearly in a particularly polarizing moment, although this is something we’ve been building to for a very long time,” says Kyle Pope, editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, a leading news and commentary source for journalism.

“I think one of the mistakes the press made is we became perceived as part of the establishment. And I think one of the silver linings of the moment we’re in is that we have a renewed sense of what our mission is and where we stand in the pecking order, and that is on the outside, where we belong.”

Hudson, ombudsman of the Newseum’s First Amendment Center, says it’s hard to guess whether Trump is serious or “bloviating” when he disparages free expression. He noted Trump’s comments in November saying that flag burners should be jailed and wondered if the president knew such behavior was deemed protected by the Constitution (in a 1989 Supreme Court ruling supported by a justice Trump says he admires, the late Antonin Scalia).

Hudson also worries about a range of possible trends, notably the withholding of information and a general culture of secrecy that could “close a lot of doors.” But he did have praise for Trump’s pick to replace Scalia on the court, Neil Gorsuch, saying that he has “showed sensitivity” to First Amendment issues. And free speech advocates say the press, at least on legal issues, is well positioned to withstand Trump.

“We have a really robust First Amendment and have a lot of protections in place,” says Kelly McBride, vice president of The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism education center based in St. Petersburg, Florida. “That doesn’t mean that attempts won’t be made. But when you compare our country to what journalists face around the world, I still think the U.S. is one of the safest places for a journalist to criticize the government.”

The First Amendment, which states in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” is far broader and more uniquely American than when ratified in 1791.

At the time, free expression was based on the legal writings of Britain’s Sir William Blackstone. The First Amendment protected against prior restraint, but not against lawsuits once something was spoken or published. Truth was not a defense against libel and the burden of proof was on the defendant, not the plaintiff. And the Bill of Rights applied to the federal government, but not to individual states, which could legislate as they pleased.

The most important breakthrough of recent times, and the foundation for many protections now, came with the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case of 1964.

The Times had printed an advertisement in 1960 by supporters of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that noted King had been arrested numerous times and condemned “Southern violators of the Constitution.” The public safety commissioner of Montgomery, Alabama, L. B. Sullivan sued for libel. He was not mentioned by name in the ad, but he claimed that allegations against the police also defamed him. After a state court awarded Sullivan $500,000, the Times appealed to the Supreme Court.

Some information in the ad was indeed wrong, such as the number of times King was arrested, but the Supreme Court decided unanimously for the Times. In words still widely quoted, Justice William Brennan wrote that “debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” He added that a libel plaintiff must prove “that the statement was made … with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

“It was breathtakingly new,” First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams said of Brennan’s ruling. “It was an extraordinary step the court was taking.”

But freedom of speech has long been championed more in theory than in reality. Abraham Lincoln’s administration shut down hundreds of newspapers during the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson championed the people’s “indisputable right to criticize their own public officials,” but also signed legislation during World War I making it a crime to “utter, print, write, or publish” anything “disloyal” or “profane” about the federal government. During the administration of President Barack Obama, who had taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, the Wilson-era Espionage Act was used to obtain emails and phone records of reporters and threaten James Risen of The New York Times with jail.

Predicting what Trump might do is as difficult as following his views on many issues. He often changes his mind, and contradicts himself.

During the campaign last year, he spoke of changing the libel laws to make it easier to sue the media. But shortly after the election, he seemed to reverse himself. He has said he is a “tremendous believer of the freedom of the press,” but has worried that “Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it.”

Trump’s disparagement of the media has been contradicted by high officials in his administration. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said recently that he did not have “any issues with the press.” Vice President Mike Pence was an Indiana congressman when he helped sponsor legislation (which never passed) in 2005 that would protect reporters from being imprisoned by federal courts. In early March, he spoke at a prominent gathering of Washington journalists, the Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner.

“Be assured that while we will have our differences — and I promise the members of the Fourth Estate that you will almost always know when we have them — President Trump and I support the freedom of the press enshrined in the First Amendment,” he said, while adding that “too often stories make page one and drive news with just too little respect for the people who are affected or involved.”

Posted in Toolkit

Sunshine Week celebrates the public’s right to know

Slug:
BC-US–Sunshine Week-Stewart Column,ADV12

Headline:
Sunshine Week celebrates the public’s right to know

Summary:
Sunshine Week encourages Americans to recognize the importance of open government to a robust democracy. Access to meetings, minutes and records of our elected and appointed representatives is a key element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is not strictly for the benefit of the news media.

Extended Headline:
Sunshine Week encourages Americans to recognize the importance of open government to a robust democracy

Editors Note:
(Eds: Reference to ‘last week’ in release of inauguration photos is CQ for the column running during Sunshine Week. ); FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. EST.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By MIZELL STEWART III

Bytitle:
Gannett/USA TODAY Network

Pub Eds note:
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One of a package of stories marking Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

Rita Ward had a question: Why did a weekly listing of causes of death suddenly stop appearing in the local newspaper?
It turned out the health department in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, halted its practice of providing causes of death to the Evansville Courier & Press. When Ward and a reporter for the newspaper asked why those records were no longer available, the department cited an Indiana law intended to protect citizens against identity theft.
“I truly do believe printing the cause of death is important,” Ward told the Courier & Press in a 2012 interview. “Maybe a reader might see a neighbor who died of colon cancer and make the decision to have their first overdue colonoscopy. It can be a first step toward a change for the better. It can touch a reader. It’s personal. That’s why it is important.”
Ward and the newspaper sued for access to the information under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. They lost two lower-court rulings before the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the records, focused on the decedent’s name, age and cause of death, should continue to be made available to the public. In their ruling, the judges underscored “the importance of open and transparent government to the health of our body politic” and held that “the public interest outweighs the private.”
The court’s explicit link between government transparency and the welfare of citizens underpins Sunshine Week, a national, non-partisan effort to highlight the critical role of open government and freedom of information at the local, state and federal levels. The March 12-18 celebration is led by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Gridiron Club and Foundation.
Now, more than ever, Americans are urged to recognize the importance of open government to a robust democracy. Access to meetings, minutes and records of our elected and appointed representatives is a key element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is not strictly for the benefit of the news media.
In addition to ordinary citizens such as Rita Ward, access to government information helps citizen’s groups hold public officials accountable through firsthand observation of their actions. Access also enables historians to accurately describe past events and gives individuals critical information about public safety in the neighborhoods where they live.
The National Park Service, fulfilling a request under the Freedom of Information Act, provided aerial photographs last week that showed a sharp contrast between crowds on the National Mall for the inauguration of President Trump and those who turned out for the first inauguration of President Obama.
Despite public statements by Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that crowds for Trump dwarfed those of Obama, the photos — not the words of government officials — told the full story.
In addition to state laws in Indiana and across the country, the Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the right to obtain information from the federal government — information that your tax dollars paid to collect. In addition, more and more local governments are leveraging technology to make public information, from traffic data to public transit schedules, even more accessible and more useful to citizens.
This week and every week, take a moment to consider what your life would be like if government officials operated in total secrecy and restricted your access to information. Support organizations fighting against those in power who seek to weaken open government protections. Join with fellow citizens in seeking disclosure. When you want information from a police department, local government or school board, ask for it.
Just like Rita Ward learned in the Indiana death records case, you have the right to know.
___
Mizell Stewart III is president of the American Society of News Editors and Vice President/News Operations for Gannett and the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MizellStewart.

Posted in Toolkit

Media groups push back after fake news defined US elections

Slug:
BC-US–Sunshine Week-Dazed and Confused,ADV12

Headline:
Media groups push back after fake news defined US elections

Summary:
One of the lessons of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is that many Americans could not distinguish between actual news stories and fabrications, leading to an environment in which damaging hoaxes spread across social media networks. In response, news organizations, online sites and academics are devising ways for people to more easily identify phony stories. Teaching media literacy to children in an age when readership of local newspapers is in steep decline also has become a priority.

Extended Headline:
One of the lessons of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is that many Americans could not distinguish between actual news stories and fabrications, leading to an environment in which damaging hoaxes spread across social media networks

Editors Note:
(Eds: Moving in advance for use Sunday and thereafter. With AP Photos. ); FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017, AT 12:01 A.M. EST.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By AREK SARKISSIAN

Bytitle:
USA TODAY Network

Pub Eds note:
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One of a package of stories marking Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information.

The Baltimore Gazette had its share of scoops leading up to the 2016 presidential election. But one stands out: Every presidential race since John F. Kennedy’s election was rigged.
That blockbuster story spread quickly across social media, with readers praising the Gazette for having the guts to report “the truth.”
Today, the Gazette’s website no longer offers any news. Instead, visitors find a statement that reads: “Our apologies, we appear to be experiencing technical difficulties.”
The site, like many that thrived during the contentious 2016 election, offered fake news — sensational, untrue tales like the Gazette story about an Atlanta police officer who gunned down a mother as she breastfed her baby.
A wildly partisan presidential election defined by deep ideological divides offered the perfect breeding ground for fake news sites to pander to readers craving information that affirms their views. And social media sites such as Facebook offered the extra turbocharge needed to blast these stories across countless networks of friends who all share the same sensibilities.
“We like to believe more of what is already in line with what we believe,” said Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies International Fact-Checking Network. “And we tend to explain away, through motivated reasoning, stuff that doesn’t fit into that pattern.”
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in December found that 64 percent of Americans could not tell the difference between real and fake news. At least 23 percent acknowledged sharing a fake news story, either knowingly or not.
Mantzarlis’ group and others want to fix that. He said his organization is creating a ready-made lesson plan for high school teachers to educate students about discerning fact from fiction in news, a solution widely viewed as the best long-term approach to creating news literacy.
“Really now we need to teach about differentiating rather than searching and cross-referencing,” Mantzarlis said.
Facebook also is offering help: Readers can flag content as fake news. Their complaints are passed along to the Poynter network, and to independent media groups that investigate the truthfulness of items (the first such groups to take part included ABC News, The Associated Press, FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes). Stories that flunk the fact check are pushed down in people’s news feeds, and anyone who wants to share the story is warned that it has been disputed.
“That’s just one of the things we’re trying to do, but there are plenty of other plans also in the works,” Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said.
Bounds pointed to a letter that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote to the site’s users on Feb. 16, reporting that his staff had extensively studied the filter bubbles people have developed and the abundance of fake news. As a result, Facebook was able to differentiate between sensational news and in-depth stories by the way people share the content: Stories that are not shared as frequently by users are identified by Facebook as potentially sensational or fake. In-depth stories thrive, Zuckerberg wrote.
“There is more we must do to support the news industry to make sure this vital social function is sustainable — from growing local news, to developing formats best suited to mobile devices, to improving the range of business models news organizations rely on,” he wrote.
The Trust Project at Santa Clara University in California is developing a system to help readers discern legitimate news sites from fake ones.
The project has partnered with news organizations around the world to develop “trust indicators” signaling solid information, said program director Sally Lehrman. The idea is to develop ways for consumers to easily identify credible news sites and break through the reader’s information bubble that only allows content reinforcing their beliefs.
Lehrman said trust indicators include whether the publication follows policies on best practices and corrections, or if it leans toward a particular political party. Other indicators include the author of the content and the number of sources included in the report.
“What we hope to do is elevate the quality of journalism that you will see online,” Lehrman said.
Similar to Twitter and Facebook, the Trust Project also is exploring ways to identify trusted sites and separate them from questionable ones.
“With all of the fake news you see out there, people didn’t know where to turn to,” Lehrman said. “The project will help readers become better informed.”
The Trust Project is working with sites Google, Facebook and others to promote credible news. Lehrman said Facebook recently adopted a button users can press to report fake news.
Beyond technical advances and accountability projects, re-establishing a culture that recognizes and relies on credible news is the goal. The days when schoolchildren came home to find a newspaper on the kitchen counter are long gone, said Frank LoMonte, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Student Press Law Center.
“We have to teach kids where to look for the information they can trust,” LoMonte said. “It’s no longer a trip to the library, but turn on the computer and start searching.”
The erosion of independent school newspapers also leaves students with the impression that news is no longer important, he said. School administrators, for example, risk sending the wrong message when they spike a story because it may tarnish someone’s reputation.
“That’s telling those students and their parents that it’s OK to not consider certain viewpoints, even if they’re controversial,” he said.
The news industry should work to correctly identify news that may seem distorted or fake, said Ken Paulson, a former editor-in-chief of USA Today who is dean at the media school of Middle Tennessee State University and president of the Newseum’s First Amendment Center.
“I think we need to stop using the term, ‘fake news,’ because it’s not that type of news at all,” Paulson said. “We have a better word, and it’s called a hoax.”
___
Follow Arek Sarkissian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ArekSarkissian

Posted in Toolkit

Shadow Government

Breeze newspapers logo4CBy Cape Coral Breeze Daily Editorial

This editorial was originally posted to the Cape Coral Breeze Daily website and has been re-published here with their permission.

When a Friends of Wildlife T-shirt-wearing resident made another plea to City Council for “green space” preservation Monday, City Manager John Szerlag announced that he has ordered an appraisal for a 325-acre site that could possibly be brought forward in a land swap proposal for the old golf course acreage where a national builder hopes to build 500 homes.

He asked Council for some consensus.

If bobbing heads count as a please proceed, he got it.

Of course, Mr. Szerlag already had the go-ahead in the bag as he had asked members of the elected board individually for direction regarding an appraisal days before.

Sure, Mr. Szerlag could have ordered the market analysis without any Council consent, formal or otherwise.

But he wanted to gauge interest in a possible exchange before devoting any effort on the subject which, ultimately, would need to come to Council.

According to council members contacted – and we contacted them all – the “seeking of direction” via one-on-ones is a fairly routine practice for the city administration.

Especially for touchier subjects such as the old golf course site, the franchise agreement with LCEC and issues pertaining to eminent domain.

Most said they see no problem with the practice. Mr. Szerlag reports to Council and that means it is appropriate for him to ask member opinion individually on such things as whether they might be interested in pursuing a land swap or what talking points they would like to see presented to the electric utility co-op so long as he does not share those views directly with other council members -which they assure the manager does not.

But not everyone has that comfort level.

Some Council members, in fact, have begun to feel uneasy. Matters such as any prospective land swap and the LCEC franchise agreement ultimately will be brought to the entire board for a vote, they acknowledge. Even the sessions’ supporters concede it’s pretty easy to see which way a Council majority is leaning on an issue based on the action the city manager takes following the “one-on-ones,” which usually do include another staffer.

One council member was concerned enough about being queried regarding the appraisal – and being told there was already support from five fellow board members – that a question was posed to the City Attorney’s Office asking whether such consensus gathering crosses either a legal or ethical line between permittable information sharing and prohibited “daisy chaining.”

A couple of things.

While that concerned council member’s query to the City Attorney’s Office perks alongside an unrelated, but similar, council member tendered “Sunshine” question -yes, there have been two in the last few weeks – we will not accuse either Mr. Szerlag or any member of Council of any impropriety concerning the path these manager-member sessions have taken.

We will, however, say that, at best, Mr. Szerlag’s for-direction queries are ill advised.

Very ill advised, according to multiple opinions from the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

The office has stated in at least three opinions that while administrative staff can meet one-on-one with elected officials, a manager or director “should refrain” from asking each elected official for his or her position on a specific matter which will foreseeably be considered by the board at a public meeting.

That’s good advice because doing so is a slippery slope: Obtaining an appraisal may not be a voting issue; agreeing to pursue a possible land swap is – or should be.

Simply put, “for-direction” one-on-ones foster a climate that encourages shadow government, where decisions may not be made, but certainly are cast.

And it should not matter whether the “shadow government” stays on the legal side of Florida’s very stringent Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws. Such governance tramples the spirit of the statutes that protect the public’s right to be part of any decision-making process from concept to implementation.

To that end, as “Sunshine Sunday” – the day set aside annually to “protect the public’s right to know”- kicks off this weekend, we urge our local officials to bring procedures back into full light:

  • Address the parameters of manager-member meetings. Publicly. On the dais. Privately, refrain from stating positions that “provide direction.” If direction is desired, put it on a regular Council meeting agenda and let the public weigh in as is our right.
  • Based on a staff recommendation, Council agreed to halve the number of regular city council meetings to two a month. If that’s not often enough to “get direction” from Council as a whole, schedule a special meeting or add additional regular meetings back into the schedule. Either works for us.
  • Require staff to be a whole lot more proactive on providing information.Although Council meetings have been cut, providing much more time between meetings, there has been zero effort on the part of the city administration to make documents related to agenda items available any earlier – or even on a timely basis before the now twice-monthly Monday meetings.A recent example?The attachment of the backup material, a 56-page “memo,” was not originally posted with the agenda for the highly anticipated joint meeting between the City of Cape Coral Municipal Charter School System and Council. Staff eventually emailed the document packet to officials of both boards late Friday afternoon. The public got access even later – it was posted to the city website shortly after city hall’s 4:30 p.m. closing.

    Council should demand much more time to research the issues that come before it. Being forced to rely only on pre-meeting one-on-ones to get questions answered is not a good way to conduct business.

    And the public doesn’t even get that.

  • Stop the public records stumble. Public records requests continue to be problematic, according to some members of Council and the public. We, in fact, continue to wait for what we thought was a pretty easy numbers request made weeks ago.Delays, the need to provide more information to better “define” what should be a pretty straight-forward request, and cost, continue to plague the process. Requests to the city clerk’s office are kicked to department personnel who decide how much time – and money – it’s going to take to provide the documents.Unless overtime is required, retrieving records is pretty much a core duty for numerous positions. Streamline the process, make turnaround a priority, and stop trying to make taxpayers pay twice.

And finally, a closing shadow government mitigation recommendation:

  • Stop with the personal texts, messages and other means to dance around the Sunshine statutes. Taking fellow Council members to task via social media messages and exchanging little missives on personal cell phones are inappropriate, even if preserved as a record that can be produced upon request. Again, one can uphold the letter of the law and spit upon its intent.

Florida’s open meeting and public records Sunshine statutes are among the most proactive in the nation.

Those laws were created decades ago to prevent any number of things that grow in the deep dark shade cast by backdoor dealings in states where it’s oh, so much easier to “get things done.”

We urge our city officials to make sure they let the sun shine in.

Posted in Toolkit

Let The Sun Shine In!

Condos_JacketTieBy Jim Condos
Vermont Secretary of State

An open government makes for a better government.

This is Sunshine Week and it is being celebrated all across the nation.  In reality, it should be celebrated every week – not just this week – in Vermont and every other state.

Here at the Secretary of State’s Office, our operations assume 625,000 Vermonters are looking over our shoulders as we go about our daily work – keeping us motivated and accountable.

In fact, this attitude comes straight from the Vermont Constitution:

That all power being originally inherent in and consequently derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them. (Chapter 1, Article 6)

Vermont further elaborates in statute on this pillar of constitutional accountability:

It is the policy of this subchapter to provide for free and open examination of records…Officers of government are trustees and servants of the people and it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize their decisions even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment. (1 V.S.A. § 315)

Sure, there are times when we’re embarrassed by our mistakes (yes, we’ve made a few), but public scrutiny comes with being a public servant. Transparency ensures that when we do make a mistake we immediately own the problem, fix the problem, and move on.

By being an open book, Vermont and local/state officials learn a lesson along the way and work harder to avoid future embarrassment, improving upon how we serve Vermonters.

I have learned many lessons about Open Government from my time with the: South Burlington City Council (18 years), Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ Board (6 years), Vermont Senate (8 years), and now 6+ years as Vermont’s Secretary of State.

Far too often, government’s first reaction is to avoid disclosure, go on the defensive and try to cover up mistakes. That is just the opposite of accountability and does not contribute to public trust. This natural tendency to resist public inquiry and criticism creates an adverse reaction: oppose and don’t disclose!

If we are ever to overcome this faulty closed-door culture and rebuild trust in government, we must start with the presumption that everything is public and belongs to the people, with narrow exceptions for good reasons.

As trustees and servants of the people, it’s our job as officers of the government to let the sun shine in – to let the people see what we are doing on their behalf.

Yes, it can be inconvenient to have public meetings, or to provide copies of records, but it is a necessary and integral part of the job that we all signed up for and pledged to do when we took our oath of office.

This openness includes the press – and the press is the public!

We must treat them as representatives of the people and not as an enemies of the state. The press plays an important part in promoting effective government (often by exposing ineffective government) and creating a culture of accountability.

In my time as Secretary of State, I have made every effort to be open and available to the Fourth Estate, no matter the inconvenience, embarrassment, or concern about reproach.

Without the press, the public would be left on its own to investigate facts and discern the truth. That is no easy task, especially in today’s world.

The vast majority of journalists I have encountered over the years are hard-working people with high ethical standards. I don’t always agree with what they write, but I respect a free press, appreciate the service they provide, and understand the job they do.

If this makes anyone in government nervous, perhaps they’re in the wrong line of work.

You have a right to know! Demand accountability and results from your government.

Sunshine Week is a national celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community.

As Vermont’s Secretary of State, Jim Condos has always advocated for government accountability through greater transparency. Secretary Condos will be conducting his fourth Transparency Tour this fall, with stops all across Vermont.

The Secretary of State’s office has created guides to help citizens and public servants navigate the Open Meeting Law and Public Records Act. They can be found on our website at www.sec.state.vt.us under the “Municipal” tab. 

Posted in Toolkit

@SunshineWeek