Remember your rights

When citizens recently had trouble squeezing public documents out of City Hall, this newspaper thought it'd be a good idea to have a public conversation about transparency in government -- in particular with regard to what the law requires.

Other local news media instantly agreed, and joined The Chronicle in presenting it.

That discussion will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Richmond County Board of Education auditorium at 9th and Broad Street downtown. It's free and open to anyone. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

We hope plenty of city employees come, and would argue that it's in their interest as well as the public's. Being unaware or inattentive to open meetings and records laws can, and invariably does, cost a local government in the long run -- in inefficiencies, lawsuits and more.

In addition, the cost to the public of a recalcitrant local government cannot be calculated. Defiant clerks and other record holders wrongfully delay the production of records, sometimes charge exorbitant fees -- and, worst of all, tamp down the fragile zeal citizens have for participating in their government, which is a precious American birthright that should never be withheld or negotiated away.

We would invite all local government employees to attend this forum on their own time if need be. It will be a good investment of that time, both as government employees and as citizens.

We urge everyone else to attend as well. Know your rights, and become more familiar with the responsibilities of government -- so that you can detect when either your rights (and the law) are being violated or the responsibilities of our friends in government are being shirked.

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