Citizen FOI warriors: Taking on local government

For Sunshine Week the American Society of News Editors honored citizen FOI warriors for their efforts to open up their governments. Check out the bios and you’ll see that they are active citizens from Florida, New Jersey and Virginia who saw problems in their local governments and wanted answers.

This is what open records are all about – providing citizens the means for finding out what is going on with their government. A couple in Virginia, Phil and Ellen Winter, noticed that the city failed to deposit their property tax check promptly, so they examined public records to show that the treasurer allegedly mishandled more than $400,000. The treasurer was booted out of office.

This is a great document-based story idea. Request to see records documenting when an agency receives checks and when it deposits them. If there is a long delay then that is interest lost for the agency (and therefore taxpayers losing out).

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