Believing that a more open government promotes enhanced accountability, provides critical information, and increases citizen participation, Attorney General Martha Coakley has worked extensively to expand the public’s access to important information and promote transparency in government. The transparency initiatives undertaken and supported by the Office since 2007 have helped Massachusetts residents as informed consumers and active participants in their state government.
Under Attorney General Coakley’s leadership, the Office has undertaken many significant transparency initiatives. These include adopting several new social media channels for communication and connection with residents, providing easier access to substantially expanded public information through the office website, implementation of the state’s Open Meeting Law, and development of the Division of Open Government.
Access to Public Information:
The Attorney General’s Office is committed to continuing to expand access to public information whenever possible, consistent with law and policy. To meet this goal, the Office has substantially increased the public information posted to its website and developed many searchable databases to provide easy access to this important information. These include:
- Development and publication of a comprehensive document filing search of the Commonwealth’s public charities and nonprofit organizations;
- Development and publication of a fully searchable database of all Open Meeting Law determinations;
- Development and publication of a fully searchable database of the Office’s bid protest decisions;
- Clear posting of all the Attorney General's Office regulations ; including documents or information associated with review or revision of any existing or proposed regulations; and
- Unprecedented posting of key documents for hospital transactions and other significant transactions or issues.
Since 2007, the Attorney General’s office has committed to effectively using social media channels to reach, educate, and engage with the public. These tools allow the Office to share critical information quickly, interact with and receive feedback from residents, and keep the public apprised of important consumer or safety information via e-mail or on their mobile devices.
The Office has launched a Flickr photo sharing account, a YouTube video channel, a blog, an electronic newsletter, and a Twitter account. Over time, the Office has revised and enhanced its communications policies for these tools to become increasingly interactive and useful to Massachusetts residents. For example, the Office often answers consumer inquiries on Twitter from its constituents, and quickly posts video from press conferences to its YouTube channel to ensure the public has access to important announcements.
Enhancements to the Attorney General’s Website:
The Attorney General’s Office has worked extensively to provide easier access to increased content via its website. Enhancements include:
- Clear description, with contact information, of the Office’s organizational structure, categorized by Bureau and Division ;
- Easy access to an increasing collection of constituent resources, including online fillable complaint forms , for consumer complaints, health care complaints, and insurance/investment complaints, downloadable complaint forms for workplace and civil rights issues, legislative testimony, information about grant applications and employment opportunities; and resources relative to class action and claims against the Commonwealth;
- Enhanced connection with social media tools , including embedding a Twitter module into the office homepage, and embedding or posting increased multimedia, including video of press conferences, PSAs, selected media interviews, audio of selected press conferences, and more photos; and
- Extensive and thorough information, including posting of consumer alerts and advisories, and an expanding library of guides, tips, and other resources available to the public on a wide range of issues, from labor laws, to charitable giving, to various consumer issues.
Division of Open Government:
The Open Meeting Law recognizes that the democratic process depends on the public being aware of how their state and local governments work and make decisions. Therefore, the Open Meeting Law requires that public bodies conduct most of their meetings in public. In recent years, enforcement of the Open Meeting Law has become centralized in the Attorney General's Office. To help public bodies and the Commonwealth’s residents understand and comply with the law, the Attorney General created the Division of Open Government .
The Division of Open Government provides training and guidance, responds to inquiries, investigates complaints, and when necessary, makes findings and takes remedial action to address violations of the law. The Division’s efforts are public and transparent, with determinations posted promptly to a searchable database, and trainings, events, relevant documents, guidance, and information frequently posted to the AGO website.
The Attorney General’s Office is a participant in a statewide initiative to provide the public unprecedented access to the Commonwealth’s fiscal transactional information. Last year, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed new accountability reforms to enhance transparency into government activities and created the Massachusetts Open Checkbook project. The project is meant to provide a window into state government and includes state spending information online in a searchable database. This includes information for spending with vendors, employees and retirees and will include spending detail beginning with fiscal year 2010. The user friendly website, which can be found at www.mass.gov/opencheckbook, represents a collaborative effort across state government to post the Commonwealth’s expenses online.