Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2012

What do government contracts, arrest warrants and doctors’ licensing information have in common?
They’re all public documents, meaning you have a right to see them.
Today begins Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide initiative to spotlight the importance of open government. And we’re focusing today on public information — what it is and how to get it. Inside, you’ll find a full-page graphic with questions and answers about public information, along with links to some of the types of information you can find online.
On our website,, you’ll find another Q&A dealing with the state’s Open Meetings Law, as well as more links to online information portals.
But you don’t have to go online to get access to public information. You can walk into city hall and request a copy of the city manager’s employment contract. You can go to the county clerk of court and ask to see a case file or search warrant. You can stop in at the school system administrative offices and tell you’d like to take a look at financial records.
There’s a lot of information out there, so you’ll need to be as specific as possible when making a request. And remember that some information — including a lot of what’s contained in personnel records — is exempt from disclosure.
But also remember that you won’t need to give your name or a reason for your public information request. If someone asks who you are or why you want the documents, they’re violating state law.
What it boils down to is this: When the government does business, it’s doing your business.