Mo. legislature revises sunshine law to include university

MISSOURI — Revisions to the Missouri Sunshine Law signed by Gov. Bob Holden on the University of Missouri at Columbia campus in June clarify, among other things, that the public university’s board of trustees is required to follow state open-records laws.

The provision declaring the University of Missouri Board of Curators a public governmental body ends a nearly two-decade-long debate about the board’s compliance with the sunshine law.

The board has long argued that it is not explicitly covered by the Missouri Sunshine Law, a position that has “infuriated the legislature,” said Charles Davis, director of the Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri. The Missouri General Assembly responded by passing numerous revisions to make the board comply with the law, but the board still said the open-records and open-meetings laws did not apply to it.

The Maneater, a student newspaper at University of Missouri at Columbia, will take any additional access to the board it can get, said editor in chief Sarah Larmier. She added that it is difficult to cover the board because much of its actions happen behind closed doors.

“It’s frustrating, especially for the student press because the board governs the university,” Larmier said. “What this [amendment to the law] does is give us a greater sense of security.”

Other revisions to the law raise the fines for open-meetings and open-records violations, set a uniform price for reproductions of records and update the law to include the Internet and other electronic means of communication.

One revision states that donations or contributions from private sources — including the amount of the contribution — to the salary of a chancellor or a president at all public colleges and universities in Missouri must be disclosed. In some Missouri public universities, up to $50,000 of the chancellor’s salary is funded by private donations, the Columbia News Tribune reported.

The revisions to the law go into effect Aug. 28.

LAW: S. 1020, 92nd Gen. Assemb., 2nd Reg. Sess. (MO, 2004)