Public notices are legally mandated publications that contain information alerting citizens of government or government-related
activities that may cause a citizen to take action. Traditionally and effectively in newspapers, public notices may
take on many forms. Most public notices provide information about government activities and are designed to alert the
public and provide an opportunity for the public to comment. Some of these public notices include publication of government
budgets, notices of public hearings, and notices of intentions to change government run or managed programs.
Other public notices contain government requests for bids for services, purchases and other business-related activities are
designed to provide businesses with the opportunity to participate in the government procurement process. Requiring
governments to publish notices calling for contract bids ensures that the government is operating in accordance with
principles of equal opportunity and provides a competitive bidding process. It also allows the requesting government
the opportunity to receive numerous bids, which ultimately can lead to lower costs and better service.
The final type of public notice consists of notices by non-governmental entities which use public powers or institutions
in some way, like our court system. When probating a will, attorneys must often publish a notice informing the public
of the appointment of an administrator of the estate being probated. This allows the public to object to any appointment
based on conflicts of interest. The attorney must also publish a notice to alert any unknown creditors. This serves
the function of notifying anyone with a claim against the estate of the deceased that they must assert their claim
within a certain time period, or else risk having their claim barred.
Public notices serve as a conduit of information from the government to the public. They enable citizens to monitor the actions
of their local governments, as well as to keep track of events occurring the in the local court system. Public notices
allow citizens to serve as watchdogs for fraud and incompetence by both government officials and private interests.
Each year, examples of government fraud are discovered by everyday citizens who read their public notices. When government
officials try to hide damaging information by ignoring public notice rules, citizens and community newspapers often
force the proper notice to be published.
Through the publishing of financial reports, citizens can see if tax dollars are being wasted. With notices of incorporation
and dissolution, citizens can be aware of who is doing business in their community and ensure that businesses are not
abusing limited liability incorporations to avoid the payment of debts.
Further, through public notices, citizens are given the opportunity to make their voices heard in public hearings and meetings.
Citizens across the nation have used public notices and public hearings to object to changes in their community that
could depress property values or alter the fabric of the area. Similarly, citizens have been able to participate in
changes that enhance their communities, such as the construction of parks and other improvements. Allowing the public
to influence the governing bodies of their local communities is crucial to the functioning of democratic society.