America is watching: Public notices – a transparent cost of doing the public’s business

NORTHERN HILLS –– From spending to developing new policies, public notices are a record of the official actions intended to alert citizens to the activities of their government, arming them with the information needed to be an active participant in our democratic society.

Commonly found in the “legal” section of a publication, a public notice is information about government-related activity mandated by state law to be published by a forum that is independent of a governing body, most commonly in the form of a legal newspaper. Virtually all levels of federal, state, and local governments face public notice responsibilities.

The publication of public notices prevents official action from being carried out in secret as public entities expected to provide public notice to not always consider openness to be in their self-interest.

Common examples of the information encompassed within a legal notice might include government contracts, foreclosures, bids for services, purchases, public meeting minutes, and other business-related activities intended to provide people with the opportunity to participate in the governmental decision-making process. The intent is to ensure the activities and potential activities of governmental agencies to be known by the public in order for people to make well-informed decisions.

Public notices provide this sort of transparency and accessibility to citizens who want to know more about government actions. Providing public notice affords the opportunity for the public to influence governing bodies.

South Dakota Codified Law 12-2 provides the legal framework related to public notice in the state, delineating where, when, how, and by whom notices shall be published.   

When governments provide public notices in a timely fashion, it gives citizens an opportunity to provide influence governing bodies by querying about their decisions and arms them with the information to be active participants in the democracy.

By printing public notices, newspapers serve government and citizens alike, creating a device of transparency for the public. Public notices serve an important role in maintaining a healthy relationship between members of the public and the governmental officials who serve them.

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