RICHMOND – The public has options when local governments decline to release information that, by law, should be public, Missouri Press Association attorney Jean Maneke said Tuesday.

Maneke said avenues to acquire the information include going to Attorney General Eric Schmitt. His office website provides a form allowing the public to file a complaint.

“Those complaints are taken seriously,” she said, and mentioned the latest Sunshine Law case won by Schmitt.

Schmitt’s office reported Dec. 2 that a court found Bel-Ridge’s closed sessions violated the law.

“In instances where the Sunshine Law is not being enforced or followed properly, we will take action wherever possible to ensure that citizens are able to properly follow what their government is doing,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt added a reminder that his office won a case in Ray County earlier this year, after Wood Heights city officials failed to follow the Sunshine Law.

Whether they are average people with an interest in open government, or people running for school board seats, anyone can ask the attorney general to investigate potential Sunshine Law violations, Maneke said.

“It doesn’t make a bit of difference if you’re a candidate,” she said.

Filing opens Dec. 17 for school board seats across Missouri.

Sunshine Law complaints can be filed at https://ago.mo.gov/missouri-law/sunshine-law/sunshine-law-complaint-form.

Other options to deal with illegal meetings and the withholding of public information by municipal governments and school boards include filing a lawsuit directly.

In cases where violations are clear and carried out knowingly by officials, a judge or jury could levy individual fines for board members and require payment of attorney fees for the plaintiff.

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