From NFOIC: A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.
Brevard corruption case morphs into public records battle
(Nov 8, 2013) In hopes of avoiding involvement in a public corruption case, an economic development operation in Brevard County contends it is not subject to the state’s open records laws. The nonprofit Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast (EDC) in Rockledge has denied records requests, arguing that it is not a public entity. That debate is now in front of a judge, and the decision in the case could set a precedent in how economic development agencies are viewed in terms of Florida’s transparency laws.
Florida investigation highlights public-records conflict
(Nov 8, 2013) An attempt by state insurance regulators to listen to a reporter’s un-aired recordings highlights potential for tension between legal protections for journalists and laws that guarantee the public’s right to access government records. Last week, WFSU reporter Lynn Hatter produced a story about people who were marketing health insurance plans in Tallahassee under the banner of the “Obamacare Enrollment Team.”
Editorial: Expanded open records law key to restoring Penn State's credibility: Lowman S. Henry
(Nov 7, 2013) Penn State University is fighting efforts in Harrisburg to place it and the other state-related universities - Temple and Lincoln universities and the University of Pittsburgh -- under provisions of the commonwealth's Open Records law. This would require the folks in Happy Valley to provide the same transparency as other beneficiaries of the taxpayers' largess. As the botched search for a new president of the state's marquee institution illustrates, the need for such a law clear and compelling.
Jacksonville judge hears arguments over public records access in Dunn case
(Nov 7, 2013) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Circuit Judge Russell Healey heard arguments Thursday morning regarding his plan to delay the release of public documents in the Michael Dunn case until he can review them. Healey's decision followed the highly publicized release of Dunn's jailhouse letters, which many considered racially inflammatory.
Documents show no actual threat of litigation
(Nov 6, 2013) Conflicting legal opinions on an issue don’t constitute a “real and tangible threat” of litigation for which a governing body may close a meeting, as the Richmond County Board of Elections did last week, two attorneys who work on behalf of open government said Wednesday. In response to an open records request for documents showing an actual threat of litigation, the city’s General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie and Senior Counsel Wayne Brown provided only legal opinions and existing law as to why the meeting was closed. What they provided didn’t show that, said David Hudson, attorney for Georgia Press Association and The Augusta Chronicle, and Hollie Manheimer, executive director of Georgia First Amendment Foundation.
Big Isle committee rejects Hawaii Sunshine Law change
(Nov 6, 2013) KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The Big Island's council is poised to block an attempt to change Hawaii's open meetings law. A Hawaii County Council committee rejected a proposal from Maui County to create an exemption to the Sunshine Law, allowing more than two council members to meet without having to take minutes or make reports on the discussion, as long as meetings are open to the public.
Elliot Spitzer ‘necessary party’ to FOIA action filed by former AIG officer, N.Y. App. Ct. Rules
(Nov 6, 2013) NEW YORK — Former New York attorney general Elliot Spitzer is a necessary party to a case in which a former AIG officer seeks emails generated from Spitzer’s private email account regarding allegations that AIG and its officers engaged in fraudulent reinsurance transactions, a New York appellate court has ruled. On Oct. 17, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, remanded the case to a trial court for a determination of whether the court has jurisdiction over Spitzer.
Judge finds Mississippi auditor defied her public records order; AG Jim Hood appeals to keep DMR records secret
(Nov 6, 2013) Acting in concert with the U.S. attorney for Mississippi's Southern District, the State Auditor's Office defied a court order by whisking away public records the Sun Herald was granted the right to review, the judge in the case concluded. Judge Jennifer Schloegel ordered the State Auditor's Office on Oct. 31 to return business records to the Mississippi Department of Resources so they could be copied for public inspection. Her ruling came in a lawsuit the Sun Herald filed almost 10 months ago to secure the records.
Elbridge village denies request to make public resolution suspending fire chief
(Nov 6, 2013) Elbridge, NY - An executive with the state Committee on Open Government says the Village of Elbridge was wrong to deny Syracuse.com's request to see a resolution suspending the Elbridge fire chief that was voted on at a public meeting. Syracuse.com last week asked to read the resolution or the minutes of the Oct. 14 public meeting in which the village board voted to suspend Fire Chief Bill Champlin for 30 days pending a judicial committee's determination of his status with the fire department.
University of Central Florida: Fraternity discipline records protected by FERPA
(Nov 6, 2013) FLORIDA — Responding to a public records lawsuit filed earlier this year, the University of Central Florida told a judge this week the school cannot provide student journalists unredacted records relating to Greek fraternities’ disciplinary hearings because the records are protected under a federal education privacy law. In UCF’s answer Monday to the lawsuit KnightNews.com, a student-run online news organization, filed in February, attorney Richard Mitchell said the school has given the news organization all of the records it is allowed to under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, even though reporters submitted “overly-broad” public records requests and did not follow university policies while doing so.
PA. Office of Open Records sides with Times Leader
(Nov 6, 2013) The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has 30 days to provide an anonymous letter alleging wrongdoing by PPL during a 2011 storm response over to The Times Leader or file an appeal with the state’s Commonwealth Court, the state’s Office of Open Records has ruled. The letter, written by a person alleging to be a PPL employee though he or she did not sign their name, was used as the basis for a settlement agreement between the electric company and the state’s PUC. The settlement, approved by the commission last Thursday, included a $60,000 civil penalty levied against the Allentown-based utility.
Nebraska lawmakers set to double-team records of arena board
(Nov 5, 2013) OMAHA — “We tried,” City Attorney Paul Kratz tells Nebraska Watchdog. Tried, but came up short nearly a decade ago, to open up the books of the powerful arena board. Now, following a series of reports by Nebraska Watchdog, at least two lawmakers are ready to take their shot. State Sen. Brad Ashford’s office is writing a “sunshine bill” which, according to Ashford, will be introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers when the legislature returns in January.
Investigator: Missing Utah AG records 'troubling'
(Nov 5, 2013) SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Investigators working for a panel of Utah lawmakers have uncovered a "very disturbing pattern" of records missing from Attorney General John Swallow's work and personal computers, the panel's special counsel said Tuesday. Attorney Steven Reich told the House Special Investigative Committee that a large number of Swallow's electronic records, including emails, are missing.