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Our View: Sunshine Week focuses on freedom of information

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This week journalists rightfully celebrate the Freedom of Information Act and collectively seek to share the knowledge of why it is so important to Americans. Dubbed Sunshine Week, March 15 to 22 has been designated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors as the time to get this important message out to the public. Though Sunshine Week is just seven days per year, its importance continues year-round. These are tough times for newspapers. Yet, the Auburn Journal continues to take its responsibility for being the No. 1 source of local news very seriously. In Placer County, we are the watchdogs, ensuring local government acts in the best interest of residents and in an open, fair and professional manner. Recently we have published many stories on the budget crisis. We used the Freedom of Information Act to investigate how the county is spending millions on overtime. We went so far as to publish a list of the top 10 county overtime wage earners. You can bet the county will be watching its overtime expenditures closer in the years to come. We attend almost every Auburn City Council meeting, Auburn Recreation District meeting and the most important school and water board meetings as well. We are privileged to serve as your eyes and ears and let you know how your precious tax dollars are being spent. When Supervisor Rocky Rockholm took a $10,000 private flight to attend a Tahoe board meeting, we pointed out the questionable expenditure on the front page. Rockholm later succumbed to pressure from an unhappy citizenry and repaid the money out of his own pocket. The examples are numerous. From the misdeeds of U.S. congressmen to the inappropriate conduct of recreation district, water and school board officials, it’s our job to ensure local taxpayers are being well represented and our money is well spent. Thankfully, the Auburn area and Placer County are blessed for the most part with hard-working, honest political and governmental leaders. Through close scrutiny from the media, we intend to keep it that way. Please join us in taking a minute to think about the role of the Fourth Estate and how important is is that journalists retain access to government documents. The difference between democracy and a dictatorship can be identified in one way by public access to government records. During Sunshine Week, and year-round, the media is your government watchdog. We take our role seriously and depend upon your support of open access, and transparency, in government.