March 11, 2013 at 09:24 AM EDT
For Sunshine Week, California Watchdogs Get a Free Open Government Guide
NEWS from Californians Aware

For further information contact Terry Francke, terry@calaware.org or (916) 487-7000.

Carmichael (MMD Newswire) March 11, 2013 -- As national Sunshine Week begins, Californians interested in using their laws to keep an eye on city hall and other local and state public agencies can get a free 50-page how-to guide from the state's premier open government resource center.

Californians Aware (CalAware), the nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for "open government, an inquiring press, and a citizenry free to exchange facts and opinions," is offering--without charge through April 15--its newly published Citizen Watchdog.

This accessibly written primer on what the state's transparency laws say--with tips on how to use them confidently and effectively--is subtitled "A Bell-Proofer's Investigative Checklist."

The introduction explains, "Sunshine laws like the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act are in themselves no guarantee of preventing the kind of bureaucratic organized crime that former elected and appointed leaders of the City of Bell were prosecuted for.

"But these and other transparency laws will make corruption much harder to commit and sustain, if reporters and citizen watchdogs understand and use them confidently and consistently."

And in any event, "using this checklist will unfailingly supply sometimes neglected or overlooked information that can be real news for journalists, fodder for public discussion by bloggers and other watchdogs, and an agenda for action by alert citizens generally."

The guide covers the Brown Act, including explanations on how to "decode" the often jargon-dense agenda labels used for the most frequent closed sessions. Basic and advanced instructions on using that law and the Public Records Act are provided, as well as new rules on asking for records showing how local trial courts are run.

Written by Terry Francke, general counsel for CalAware with more than 33 years experience explaining and training others in the open government laws, the guide is presented in question-and-answer progression and, released in portable document format (pdf), contains dozens of links to the full text of state laws, interpretive court cases and other material.

To obtain a free copy, those interested need only send an e-mail with their names and city of residence to info@calaware.org, with Citizen Watchdog in the subject line.

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