Dr. Jonathan Groves has been tapped as president of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, a group of volunteers dedicated to promoting government transparency and educating the public about the Missouri Sunshine Law.
Groves, a former journalist who teaches media classes in Drury’s Communication Department, has been part of the group’s board since its founding in late 2008.
“All citizens should be concerned about government accountability,” says Groves, who has also served as media coordinator for Greene County’s courts. “The Sunshine Law ensures that Missouri’s government institutions conduct their business in the light of day.”
Over the years, the coalition has hosted seminars about the Sunshine Law throughout the state, and it has recognized residents who promote openness in government with its Sunshine Hero Award. Last year, the award was given to State Auditor Tom Schweich for his efforts related to the Sunshine Law.
As a primary contact for the coalition, he hopes to help people understand and use the law to ensure access to government records and meetings. Recently, Groves was interviewed by the Associated Press regarding access to information in the case of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
The law ensures individuals to have access to a variety of public proceedings and records, such as police incident reports, court hearings, and city council sessions.
He notes that those who passed the law crafted a specific section (610.011) to promote an ethic of openness among Missouri’s government bodies:
It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public government bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Section 610.010 to 610.200 [the Sunshine Law] shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.
In his new role, he hopes to focus the volunteer coalition’s efforts online and expand its efforts through virtual means.
“We hope to connect people who are passionate about open-government initiatives,” he says. “If citizens don’t keep up with what their governments are doing, democracy cannot succeed.”