Sunshine Week and recent events



Sunday marked the beginning of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. The Independent is more than happy to celebrate with a daily posting of open records — available to anyone, online, for free — the rest of the week.

We'll curate from some of the many online databases and interactive websites in hopes of providing a better understanding of not only what's happening in the community, but how you can personally access vital information and documentation on your own. We'll pull from government resources and watchdog groups, and highlight both historic archives and recent data.

Today, we'll focus on three different sites that can shed some light on recent, high-profile, local news stories.

Montana Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull made headlines after he sent a racist email about President Obama from his courthouse account. The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires Cebull to submit an annual financial disclosure report that details all of his personal investments. You can view his 2010 filing, and all 53 lines of personal investments, through Judicial Watch.

The University of Montana "has a problem with sexual assault," according to a recent review, and the latest incident involved an international student leaving the country while being accused of rape. The city has now started a campaign urging victims to call 911 and report assaults, noting the problem is a community issue, and not just a campus one. The Montana Department of Justice's online registry of violent and sexual offenders gives some perspective: 498 offenders are currently listed in Missoula.

Speaking of UM, President Royce Engstrom, despite recent events, was recently named to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. How big is Homeland Security since 9/11? The Washington Post put together a special report titled "Top Secret America" that uses public records and Freedom of Information Act requests to illustrate the fast spread of the department. You may be surprised to learn Montana has 39 counter-terrorism offices in the state — more than West Virginia, Utah, Nebraska and Iowa, among others.

Tomorrow: Gross out with bed begs and dirty energy money

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