Public notices are legally mandated notifications that contain information alerting citizens of government or government-related activities that affect local citizens. Traditionally and effectively in newspapers, public notices may take on many forms. Most notices provide information about government activities and are designed to alert the public and provide an opportunity for the public to comment. Examples include publication of government budgets, notices of public hearings, notices of intentions to change government programs, etc.
Other public notices contain government requests for bids that include services, purchases and other business-related activities. These 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.
Another type of public notice consists of notifications by non-governmental entities. For example, when probating a will, attorneys might 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 period of time, 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 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.