Meridian Star

January 15, 2014

Public Records Act changes sought

The Associated Press
Associated Press

GREENWOOD, Miss. — Mississippi Ethics Commission director Tom Hood and good government groups are asking the Legislature to give the agency more authority to enforce the state's Public Records Act.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reports (http://bit.ly/1j7e7i7 ) that Hood told a local civic club that while his agency can encourage public bodies to follow the law when it comes to providing records, it can only issue non-binding opinions when violations occur.

The commission cannot impose penalties on the violators.

"A lot of these public records disputes are very fact-specific," Hood said Monday.

"Obviously sometimes you need to look at the documents to decide whether or not an exemption applies. And we don't have any authority to do that. We can't make folks turn over documents. We can't hold hearings. We can't call witnesses."

Hood said the commission would like the same authority it now has in enforcing the state's Open Meetings Law.

The change has the support of the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information and the Mississippi Press Association. A similar effort went nowhere last year.