Sunshine Week is observed every March as a celebration of access to public information. In anticipation of this observance next week, the Municipal Association of South Carolina has published five articles in the March issue of Uptown to spotlight best practices related to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

For many years, the Municipal Association of SC has partnered with the S.C. Press Association to share resources and offer training for local officials regarding the Freedom of Information Act.

"The Municipal Association provides substantial training every year for elected officials and city staff to help them dig into the details of the Freedom of Information Act," said Miriam Hair, executive director of the Municipal Association, which represents all 270 South Carolina cities.

One of the Association's go-to resources for training is the S.C. Press Association's guide to the Freedom of Information Act. "This is one of first handbooks we make sure newly officials get right after they are elected," Hair said.

For mayors and councilmembers, the South Carolina Municipal Elected Officials Institute of Government is the training program where local officials can gain a basic understanding of the major issues they will consider in their council roles.

Mayors and councilmembers participating in the training program receive FOIA training in one of their first MEO Institute sessions. It is taught in a classroom setting as well as in an online format available 24/7. S.C. Press Association Executive Director Bill Rogers is one of the instructors for the FOIA class.

Last year, the Municipal Association and the Press Association partnered on a training tool to help local officials and reporters understand the requirements mandated by new legislation regarding the process for changing a meeting agenda within 24 hours of a meeting. The two associations created a flow chart and simple instructions that outline the process, making it clear for all involved.

The Municipal Association also provides FOIA training for a variety of city staff positions, including city managers, clerks, business licensing professionals, municipal attorneys, public information officers, utility clerks, HR professionals and court administrators.

Last year's March Uptown includes additional resources city officials can use to increase transparency.

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