How it works...
Location: United States
Topic: How it works...
Posted: 08/July/2006 at 10:45am
What is the Watchdog forum for?
It's to allow those who are already watching government for their own
purposes to alert likeminded people everywhere when an issue of public
forum law appears to be arising in a state or local agency they're
Who is a Watchdog
Watchdogs are members of CalAware who volunteer to be the local eyes
and ears on behalf of CalAware. Please email
us if you'd like to participate.
If you're not already a member of CalAware, join today. You can do so
What kind of issues of public forum law?
For example, a meeting held or an action taken without adequate public
notice; a closed session held for questionable purposes; access to public
records withheld or unreasonably delayed or complicated; attempts at
censorship or arbitrary interference with speech, journalism, assembly or
petitioning; the filing of a libel suit or a threat to do so; a whistleblower in
trouble; a high school paper censored or its faculty advisor removed.
Isn't this the kind of thing the media report on?
Yes, as much as they can and as much as they know. But there are not as
many reporters as there should be, and there are many chances for them
to miss something you have seen. Or they may not think the issue or the
event is that newsworthy. Besides, very few in the media have a statewide
audience. This forum is to supply that level of awareness.
What's the difference between the Watchdog forum and the Community
The latter is more geared toward the sharing of experiences and ideas in
pursuit of solutions—a brainstorming zone for working toward better
policies and practices. As a Watchdog in this forum, however, your
reports and alerts are welcome even if you are not looking for a solution
—just documenting what may be a problem. Of course, the same
situation might prompt one person to report the facts as a Watchdog,
while another person with more of a stake in resolving the matter might
turn to the Community Forum and start a conversation with others who
want to help.
Can I as a Watchdog report on a situation and ask whether there's a
Yes, and if you do, at least one person will weigh in with a reaction—
CalAware General Counsel Terry Francke.
What should I try to avoid on this forum?
Drawing accusatory legal conclusions—stating that a person violated a
law. It's far more helpful and less risky to just report all of what you
consider the relevant facts and let them speak for themselves. For
example, instead of saying, "Last night the school board violated the
Brown Act," say something like "Last night the school board announced it
had dismissed a soccer coach, but the coach tell me he was never given
advance notice of the closed session in which charges against him were
apparently reviewed." Where the controversy involves written documents
such as agendas, letters, memos, you can attach them and let others read
and judge for themselves.
Edited by Emily - 10/July/2006 at 8:43am
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