FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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December 14, 2012 2:52 PM

State FOIA Friday News 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. Be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

Telegraph Editorial: Nonpublic session gives Nashua a black eye

Nashua, New Hampshire (Dec 14, 2012) - Admittedly, we don’t know everything that took place during the two-hour nonpublic session conducted by Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and the Board of Aldermen in late October to discuss the acquisition, lease or sale of properties related to the Broad Street Parkway. Perhaps that’s as it should be, given that the state Right to Know Law contains a specific exemption for just that purpose.

Visit Nashua Telegraph for the rest.

Mug shots are open record, Oklahoma attorney general says

(Dec 13, 2012) - Mug shots of people arrested by law enforcement officers are open records and must be released to the public when requested, according to an opinion released Thursday by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The opinion came after a request by state Sen. Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, and State Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, asking if the photos are open record and whether they must be released in electronic format. The answer to both questions is yes, according to Pruitt's opinion.

Visit NEWSOK.com for the rest.

VA: McDonnell tells state agencies to propose cuts, but doesn’t offer his own

ALEXANDRIA (Dec 13, 2012) - Gov. Bob McDonnell seems to keep two sets of standards when it comes to budget transparency — one for state agencies and another for his office. McDonnell told all state agencies last month to propose potential 4 percent cuts to their own fiscal 2014 budgets, citing economic uncertainty surrounding the so-called “fiscal cliff,” along with Medicaid and state employee health-care costs that eat up a greater proportion of taxpayer dollars each year. A few short weeks later, agencies submitted their ideas, and the Department of Planning and Budget posted them online. But McDonnell’s office made no such proposal for cutting its own budget — at least not publicly. Those details are rolled into an “internal working paper,” McDonnell spokesman Paul Logan told Watchdog.org. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act conveniently guards “working papers” of the governor’s office from the public.

Visit Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau for the rest.

Editorial: Justice in a new light

(Dec 12, 2012) - The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a Toano man seeking access to the personnel records of a James City County police officer who arrested him last year. The case is important because it tests how far local governments can go in claiming certain records can be excluded from the public.

Visit DailyPress.com for the rest.

Barbara Petersen, Dan Krassner: Launch Transparency 2.0 to benefit all Floridians in reviewing state budget expenses

(Dec 11, 2012) - Florida Senate president, Mike Haridopolos contracted with Spider Data Services to develop an unprecedented budget- tracking system at a cost of nearly $5 million. That system, Transparency 2.0, is now fully developed and ready for use, but recent reports suggest Florida lawmakers may well walk away, shelving the program. ... The Transparency 2.0 website, if made public, would put state government contracts, spending, government employee salaries and agency budgets online for all Floridians to read in plain language and in one place. Budget transparency reform through the launch of this website would place a significant spotlight on how Florida government awards state contracts to outside businesses, making the procurement process more transparent — and accessible — for Floridians.

Visit TCPALM for the rest.

December 7, 2012 1:45 PM

State FOIA Friday News 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.

And be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

Oklahoma Open Records workshop for public is well-attended by public officials, too

(Dec 7, 2012) - Most of the questions posed during Thursday's public workshop on the state's Open Meeting and Open Records acts could have had one simple answer, Oklahoma First Assistant Attorney General Tom Bates said. "I think people overthink it too much," he said. "As I say in the presentation, the spirit of the laws is openness, and if you follow that, you are doing the right thing." The workshop was part of a statewide tour organized by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Oklahoma Newspaper Foundation and the state Attorney General's Office.

Visit Tulsa World for the rest.

Ark. Supreme Court reverses ruling on FOI law

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a portion of a lower court ruling that declared the state's Freedom of Information Act unconstitutional but let stand a part of the opinion that lets administrations meet in private with city council members individually. Sebastian County Circuit Judge James Cox, who ruled last year that the law was too vague for the criminal penalties to be fair after a Fort Smith attorney alleged in a lawsuit that a city administrator was illegally having meetings with individual members of the city council.

Visit TimesUnion.com for the rest.

New Hampshire state government should make public records more accessible

During budget talks last week with Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan and members of the Legislature, Attorney General Michael Delaney bemoaned the cost borne by his office for fulfilling requests under the state’s Right-to-Know law. ... “We need to make this information available to the public, but the cost to produce government records about actions taken in the past is materially undermining our ability to perform current functions,” Delaney later said, according to the Nashua Telegraph.

Visit Concord Monitor for the rest.

RI AG to hold open government summit

LINCOLN, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island's attorney general will hold an open government summit to help newly elected public officials understand the requirements of the state's public records and open meetings laws. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin's "Open Government 101" summit next month will include an overview of the state's newly revised Access to Public Records Act and the Open Meetings Act. Officials will also learn how to respond to public records requests.

Visit NECN.com for the rest.

 

Citrus College board re-approves president's contract; open-government advocate to continue litigation

GLENDORA, California (Dec 5, 2012) - In hopes of addressing allegations of Brown Act violations, the Citrus College Board of Trustees on Tuesday rescinded a contract and controversial pay package for the college's president while simultaneously re-approving it. The board reconsidered the contract it approved in July for Citrus College President/Superintendent Geraldine Perri, which calls for automatic raises for the next four years, bringing her total salary to $251,000 by 2016. The move was in response to criticism and a lawsuit from open-government advocate Gil Aguirre, who claims that the board approved an agreement and compensation during a closed session meeting, violating state open meeting laws.

Visit sgvtribune.com for the rest.

April 13, 2012 3:26 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

Washington State Supreme Court rules accident reports are public record

OLYMPIA – Accident reports compiled by troopers and maintained in a state database should be treated as public records available by request, Washington's Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Justices said in their 7-2 decision that the Washington State Patrol improperly withheld files from a person seeking location-specific records. He was asked to sign a document vowing that he would not use the records to sue the state.

Visit The Olympian for the rest.

Public access fight can never waver

Any discussion about open public records in New Jersey must begin with a fundamental understanding: Government officials want to keep secret as much of their business as they possibly can — unless, of course, they can gain some advantage in publicizing it. So when it comes time to debate some form of public access, those on the government side will invariably warn of such things as jeopardizing confidentiality or the high costs of record-keeping — whatever it takes to diminish government transparency in some small way.

Visit DailyJournal.com for the rest.

Jessica Dorrell, Bobby Petrino scandal shows power Of FOIA

In an amazing turn of events, another former Arkansas coach has been caught sending thousands of text messages to a mistress. Bobby Petrino is just the latest Arkansas coach to reveal a bit too much on a state issued cell phone. Petrino was dismissed by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long on before his phone records became available, but the revealing records won't make it any easier for him to land his next job.

Visit International Business Times for the rest.

University of Utah students launch open government campaign

University of Utah honors students admittedly have an agenda: They want government to be more open about its agendas. In fact, they want the state’s 270-plus cities and counties to be more transparent about all their policies and practices.

Visit Salt Lake Tribune for the rest.

NASA's new Web plans stress open source, cloud

NASA is building an entirely new Web architecture that leans heavily on cloud computing, open source tools, and social media. It will be used both for public-facing websites and internal Web services, the space agency announced Tuesday.

Visit InformationWeek for the rest.

ACLU pushes for 'transparency' in Mayor Frank Jackson's schools plan

CLEVELAND, Ohio --Mayor Frank Jackson has adjusted his schools plan to make the dealings of a proposed board to review charter schools more open, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says he has not gone far enough.

Visit Cleveland.com for the rest.

March 16, 2012 11:49 AM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier. Be sure to check out Sunshine Week 2012 News while you're at it.

Government confirms it has secret interpretation of Patriot Act Spy Powers

The government has just officially confirmed what we've long suspected: there are secret Justice Department opinions about the Patriot Act's Section 215, which allows the government to get secret orders from a special surveillance court (the FISA Court) requiring Internet service providers and other companies to turn over "any tangible things." Just exactly what the government thinks that phrase means remains to be seen, but there are indications that their take on it is very broad.

Visit ACLU for the rest.

Requests for public records from Wis. Gov. Walker's office increase three-fold

MADISON, Wis. — The firestorm of debate ignited by Gov. Scott Walker's changes to collective bargaining rules last year also triggered an explosion of requests for public information from his office. The office received 214 written requests during 2011, some three times more than the previous governor saw just a few years earlier, Gannett Wisconsin Media found while checking public records activity as part of a Sunshine Week open-government initiative.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Results vary in local public records audit

Without access to public records, revealing the day-to-day happenings in government — from the mundane to the corrupt — would citizens be informed? Government really does control people’s lives, said Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington. It controls who puts money in and who takes money out.

Visit Daily Record for the rest.

FOIA request flushes out details of settlement

Details of the settlement reached in a former New Milford police official’s $10 million federal lawsuit against the town, Mayor Patricia Murphy and the town’s police chief have been obtained by The Housatonic Times in response to a freedom of information request.

Visit Litchfield County Times for the rest.

Obama FOIA efforts earn mixed grades

Many federal agencies have failed to track basic information in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee study released Thursday. A separate, rosier study from nonprofit OMBWatch noted FOIA progress compared to previous years.

Visit Government Executive for the rest.

Arizona Republic and 12 News fight to access public records

The Arizona Republic and 12 News in 2011 successfully went to court more than 10 times to open public records for inspection. Journalists fight every day to open records and meeting to the public, but these cases stand out as significant legal victories.

Visit TucsonCitizen.com for the rest.

Agencies to launch portal for online FOIA requests

WASHINGTON — Filing a request for public information under the Freedom of Information Act can be easy — if you know where to send it. If you don't, you may end up sending your request to multiple agencies, hoping you picked the right one ... By October, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Commerce and the National Archives and Records Administration hope to launch an electronic FOIA portal that would give the public one place to file a FOIA request.

Visit Democrat and Chronicle for the rest.

March 9, 2012 4:39 PM

Sunshine Week 2012 Events

Events around the country have been posted and we encourage you to not only add yours to the list, but also send photos, links, PDFs and other coverage. Federal, state and local lawmakers, as well as open government experts have contributed opinion columns on topics relevant to Sunshine Week. Editorial cartoons donated by the artists can be used by anyone for free in relation to their Sunshine Week coverage. Also posted is an infographic created by McClatchy-Tribune Graphics for anyone to use March 11-17.

Visit Sunshine Week for the rest.

Are you a 'Ray of Sunshine'?

The popular Sunshine Week Ray of Sunshine game is back with all-new questions for 2012. Take the quiz and wear the victory badge on your own site and Facebook page. You also can use the game button in your own pages with a link to the game to encourage others to test their open government knowledge.

Visit Sunshine Week for the rest.

Who is buying elections?

Welcome to a new era of exponentially more unlimited and undisclosed campaign spending. This is the first presidential election since game-changing rulings by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and a federal district court in SpeechNow.org v. FEC paved the way for a small group of elites to spend unprecedented sums — with little or no transparency — to influence voters. Since then, outside groups often called “super PACs” have proliferated, stimulating new ways for big donors to influence elections — often in secret.

Visit B.R. Hook for the rest.

Arkansas AG, journalists urge court to uphold FOI, reverse judge’s ruling

The state Supreme Court today granted requests from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and two journalists’ organizations to submit briefs in support of a challenge to a ruling that portions of Arkansas’ open government law are unconstitutional. McDaniel, the Arkansas Press Association and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argue in their briefs that a Sebastian County Circuit judge erred in the ruling he made in a lawsuit alleging the city of Fort Smith violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Visit Arkansas News for the rest.

Former Wisconsin supervisor honored for openness effort

A Wisconsin village president who resigned his county board seat rather than stay silent about an open records issue was one of several people honored Thursday by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Hilbert Village President Ken Stenklyft was one of eight winners in six categories of the council's Openness Awards, or Opees. The winners were announced ahead of Sunshine Week, an annual national effort to draw attention to the public's right to know that begins Sunday.

Visit wisconsinrapidstribune.com for the rest.

Mayor unveils San Francisco open data cloud

Mayor Lee unveiled data.SFgov.org, a cloud-based open data site and the successor/replacement to DataSF.org. The city is adopting cloud services, “social citizen interfaces,” and APIs to power its new open data site, all in an effort to provide a more robust, technologically sound infrastructure that can drive innovation, access to information, engagement, and government efficiency.

Visit TechCrunch for the rest.

CIA claims that torture technique is an "intelligence method" exempted from FOIA

The CIA’s characterization of torture as an “intelligence method” is shameful, and at bottom it is simply another effort to prevent the public from learning the full scope of the torture program. We know from documents the government has already released that the CIA’s use of waterboarding violated even the minimal guidelines established by its legal memos. The Obama administration should fulfill its commitment to transparency and release these additional documents.

Visit ACLU Blog of Rights for the rest.

February 24, 2012 5:17 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

Open Data Handbook 1.0 introduces open data

To help guide organisations that wish to open their data, the Open Knowledge Foundation has released version 1.0 of the "Open Data Handbook" which "discusses the legal, social and technical aspects of open data". The handbook is targeted at a broad audience, according to the announcement, but has a particular focus on open government data. It began development in October 2010 as the "Open Data Manual" at a book sprint in Berlin, organised by members of the Open Government Data and Open Data in the EU working groups at the Open Knowledge Foundation. It was then added to and refined by a wider group of editors to produce the current handbook.

Visit The H Open Source for the rest.

NASA to open source web operations

NASA, like any other major enterprise, is a heavy user of open source and Linux. Now the agency is planning to open source its main portal NASA.gov and internal Intranet insidenasa.nasa.gov. The space agency recently (Feb 6) posted a draft Statement of Work (SOW) seeking vendors to submit their response to the request for information.

Visit Muktware.com for the rest.

Homeland analysts told to monitor policy debates in social media

WASHINGTON — Analysts for a Department of Homeland Security program that monitors social networks like Twitter and Facebook have been instructed to produce reports on policy debates related to the department, a newly disclosed manual shows.

Visit New York Times for the rest.

NYC makes internal ratings of 18,000 public school teachers available

For the first time ever, New York City has made public its internal ratings of how effective teachers are at boosting their students’ performance on reading and math exams. The release of the data on roughly 18,000 teachers — who are identified by name — came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by The Post and other media outlets in August 2010.

Visit New York Post for the rest.

Official accused of using work email for fantasy football

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A former Hillsborough deputy county attorney has decided to fight allegations that he was using his work email inappropriately to talk about fantasy football. After a conservative activist filed for the emails under the Freedom of Information Act, the question of gambling arose, and now, the attorney general's office is involved.

Visit WMUR 9 for the rest.

Open-government champion retiring from New Mexico Senate

State Sen. Dede Feldman, a longtime champion of government transparency, announced today that she won’t seek a fifth term this year.

Visit nmpolitics.net for the rest.

Bill adding teeth to Iowa’s open-records law has new life

DES MOINES – A six-year battle in the Legislature to create an Iowa Public Information Board has renewed life, thanks to a new floor manager for the bill with a “strong desire” to move it forward. “I think the time’s come for this bill to move forward. Six years is long enough,” state Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, said Wednesday. “Iowans that I’ve talked to, talk about transparency in their government; I think the common, everyday Iowan needs one place to go to find out some of their answers.”

Visit SouthwestIowaNews.com for the rest.

February 17, 2012 1:13 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

"Why I'm Suing the FBI, the DoD and the CIA"

Over the past year, I've filed dozens of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and other government agencies in hopes of prying loose documents I need to support my investigative reporting efforts on a wide-range of issues and policies.

One of the frustrating realities about the FOIA process is the enormous backlog of requests government agencies have to contend with, which means many months or years could pass before my request is finally processed and I receive a response. However, a little-known FOIA provision allows requesters to seek an estimated date of completion from government agencies on their FOIA requests...

Visit TruthOut for the rest.

Cybersecurity Bill Threatens Public Access to Information, Accountability

Yesterday organizations concerned with open government and accountability released a letter expressing their concern with several sections of the recently-introduced Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and urging the Senate to delay voting on the bill until the issues have been carefully and thoroughly reviewed.

The letter cites provisions in the bill that create unnecessary, overbroad and unwise limitations to access of information, including broad exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and jeopardize the rights of whistleblowers.

Visit OpenTheGovernment.org for the rest.

Arkansas Police use of force records subject to FOI

Police records regarding the use of force by an officer are not exempt from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, the state Supreme Court said today in a ruling hailed as a victory for open government.

The high court affirmed a circuit judge’s ruling that the Little Rock Police Department could not refuse to release its use-of-force reports requested under the FOI law. The reports were requested by an attorney for Chris Erwin, who was struck several times by Little Rock police Lt. David Hudson during an arrest outside a Little Rock restaurant on Oct. 29.

Visit Arkansas News for the rest.

EPA, Commerce take lead in developing "FOIA Portal"

A buzz is growing in the federal Freedom of Information community about a new $1.3 million “FOIA Portal” under development and slated for launch this fall. Thursday we got a chance to look under the hood a bit, as part of a group organized by the Office of Government of Information Services.

Visit Investigative Reporting Workshop for the rest.

Conn. high court rules university can withhold trade secrets

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in University of Connecticut v. Freedom of Information Commission that a public entity could invoke the trade secret exemption in the state freedom of information act to shield its own records from being released.

Visit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for the rest.

FOI requests trigger DOT investigation

Outside investigators will conduct a probe of the planning, real estate and record-keeping practices of the Delaware Department of Transportation as a result of new signs of poor document security and unexplained gaps in key files potentially involving millions in taxpayer dollars.

The investigation was triggered by a series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by The News Journal in recent months involving agency land deals and the involvement of political figures in certain highway projects that affect commercial interests.

Visit Delaware Online for the rest.

February 10, 2012 3:47 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

CIA's Covert Operation Against Declassification Review

This very important Document Friday features a very obscure document, just two pages (59033 and 59034) that the Central Intelligence Agency printed in the Federal Register on Friday, 23 September 2011 –without a notice for public comment.  These regulations, which the CIA began enforcing in December, are a covert attack on the most effective tool that the public uses to declassify the CIA’s secret documents, Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR).

Opinion from National Security Archive blog.

Business and Media Interests in Dispute over 'Secret Court'

The decision by the Delaware Court of Chancery to establish what some see as a "secret court" for business has set up a showdown between the court, the national media and top business interests. This month, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined an October federal lawsuit filed by the Delaware Coalition for Open Government against the Court of Chancery and the state of Delaware.

Visit Delaware Online for the rest.

Open Gov Advocates Say Maryland Does a Poor Job Putting Data Online

Maryland lags behind other states in making government information easy for citizens to access online, open government advocates said, despite Gov. Martin O'Malley's push to make Maryland more digitally transparent. O'Malley is well known for using data to measure the effectiveness of government programs and policies.

Visit Southern Maryland Onlinet for the rest.

Michigan State Football Player Files Complaint Against Police Department

Michigan State senior Trenton Robinson has filed a citizens complaint against a local police department, saying that the officer who stopped him used “unnecessary force to command my body in motions that I was uncomfortable with,” according to the complaint obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Bay City Times in Bay City, Mich.

Visit Sporting News for the rest.

How Open Society Grantees Are Advancing Access to Public Information in Latin America

Since the landmark legal decision Marcel Claude Reyes and Others v. Chile of the Inter-American Human Rights Court in 2006, the right to access public information has increasingly been recognized by Latin America’s governments as a human right.  Fourteen of the region’s nineteen countries have access to public information laws, more than any other developing region in the world.  Most of these have been passed in the past decade with the support of the Open Society Foundations' Latin America Program and partner civil society organizations.

Visit Open Society Foundations for the rest.

New York City Transparency Project Will Open-Source a Look Inside the City's Checkbook

The office of the New York City Comptroller has begun coding up a revamp to a site that already gives a comprehensive look, updated daily, at nearly every check issued by the city. For the first time, the city will also offer software developers direct, programmatic access to a comprehensive trove of information about New York's fiscal health. And within a few weeks after the updated site launches, city officials say, the source code will be released online under an open-source license.

Visit Tech President for the rest.

'Transparency Camp 2012' is Open for Registration

Transparency Camp is an “unconference” for opengov: an event where, each year, journalists, developers, technologists, policy-makers, government officials, students, academics, wonks, and everyone in between gather to share their knowledge about how to use new technologies and policies to make our government really work for the people -- and to help our people work smarter with our government.

Visit Transparency Camp for the rest.

Turning Government Data into Private Sector Products is Complicated Business

The government launched its massive data set trove Data.gov in 2009 with a clear mission: to put information the government was gathering anyway into the hands of private sector and nonprofit Web and mobile app developers. Once that data was out, the White House imagined, developers would set about turning it into useful products--optimizing Census Bureau statistics for marketers; Commerce Department data for exporters; and Housing and Urban Development Department information for building contractors, mortgage brokers and insurance adjusters.

Visit NextGov for the rest.

Citizens Love Transparency

Citizens are demanding more accountability and openness, and new technologies are making it easier to share data and information more freely. There are also sound reasons for doing this as experience indicates that having a more informed citizenry improves services, and open data has the potential to generate a host of new services and businesses.

Read the opinion atWorldBank.org for the rest.

January 27, 2012 4:24 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

South Dakota GOP official joins with Democrats to support open government

PIERRE — The Republican governor’s chief of staff and a Democratic leader in the Legislature agree that public bodies should be allowed to keep minutes during closed-door meetings, but some Republican legislative leaders oppose the idea. ... uring a later meeting of his own with the newspaper officials, Dusty Johnson, chief of staff for Gov. Dennis Daugaard and a Mitchell resident, said he personally likes the idea even though he could not recall if the Daugaard administration has taken an official position on it.

Visit The Daily Republic for the rest.

A hard look at what open government means for the Department of Energy

Every government agency got on the Internet in a different way. Often times, individuals decided that they'd take their little corner of the world online. Hundreds of different ways of presenting government information to the public sprang up. Sometimes these websites were terrible, but other times, they were wonderful, or at least happened to contain vital documents that could be found nowhere else. Now, though, government agencies know that they *have* to be online, which means they need A Policy. Not only that, they need a plan to deal with the wild legacy infrastructure that preceded the era of The Policy.

Visit The Atlantic for the rest.

Under Obama, the Freedom of Information Act still in shackles

Three years ago this past weekend, on his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued his now infamous memo on transparency and open government, which was supposed to fulfill his campaign promise to lead the “most transparent administration in history.” Instead, his administration has been just as secretive—if not more so—than his predecessors, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has become the prime example of his administration’s lack of progress.

Visit Electronic Frontier Foundation for the rest.

Audit raises safety concerns about Atlanta transit system

ATLANTA — A federal audit of Atlanta's public transit system has raised several safety concerns about equipment, a near-miss involving a train and the death of a man whose clothing became caught in an escalator. WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the previously unreleased audit of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority this month through the Freedom of Information Act.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Immigration authorities locked 13,000 in limbo

On a single day this past fall, the United States government held 13,185 people in immigration detention who had not been convicted of a crime, some of whom will not be charged with one, according to information The Huffington Post obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Instead, at a cost of roughly 2 million taxpayer dollars per day, the men and women were detained while immigration authorities sorted out their fates.

Visit Huffington Post for the rest.

Michael Moore joins Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in FOIA request

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) announced today that it is being joined by award-winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore in the Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA) demands to federal and local law enforcement agencies seeking public disclosure of documents and information concerning their involvement in the coordinated crackdown on Occupy encampments across the nation.

Visit Justice Online for the rest.

No extra part-timer to handle FOIA requests in Roscoe, IL

Village trustees briefly considered adding a part-time position to handle a recent surge of Freedom of Information Act requests, but quickly dismissed the idea at a Thursday committee meeting. The village has received 10 FOIA requests this month for 86 documents. Village Hall’s FOIA officer, Linda Day, has spent 54 hours responding to the requests this month.Village trustees briefly considered adding a part-time position to handle a recent surge of Freedom of Information Act requests, but quickly dismissed the idea at a Thursday committee meeting.

Visit Rockford Register Star for the rest.

January 20, 2012 11:36 AM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier:

Private-sector lobbyists stand to collect public-sector pensions

Township Officials of Illinois (TOI) is a private trade group, not a governmental agency, but its employees are eligible for public-sector pensions subsidized by taxpayers, the Better Government Association has learned ... As a non-governmental body, TOI doesn’t levy taxes or comply with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act, both of which guarantee a level of government transparency and accountability.

Visit Chicago Sun-Times for the rest.

Parkersburg (W.V.) committee OKs paralegal to help deal with FOIA requests

Members of Parkersburg City Council's Personnel Committee unanimously approved Wednesday a request to contract services with a paralegal to deal with the number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Mayor Bob Newell made the request, citing a number of FOIAs the city has received recently. Fulfilling the requests has generated thousands of documents.

Visit NewsandSentinel.com for the rest.

Opinion: Your right to know, without delay

A proposal by the Governor's Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review would relax Virginia's Freedom of Information Act so local governments would have seven days instead of five to respond to requests. Why? According to a news story by Times-Dispatch reporter Olympia Meola, "Fairfax County Board of Supervisors member Pat Herrity, a task force member, said members heard from a number of localities that they were not meeting the five-day deadline."

Visit Richmond Times-Dispatch for the rest.

W.V. House of Delegates passes bill addressing term "public records"

The House of Delegates passed its first bills Wednesday. Three bills on have been sent on to the Senate while a fourth goes back to the Judiciary Committee. The first bill the House passed during the second session of the 80th West Virginia Legislature is about creating a more open government. HB 2402 sailed through 94-0. House Judiciary Chair Tim Miley said the bill helps to redefine the term public record in the Freedom of Information Act.

Visit West Virginia Public Broadcasting for the rest.

NASA clears runway for open source software

The NASA Open Government Initiative has launched a new Web site to expand the agency’s open source software development. Open source development, which invites the public access to view and improve software source code, is transforming the way software is created, improved and used. NASA uses open source code to address project and mission needs, accelerate software development and maximize public awareness and impact of research.

Visit Scientific Computing for the rest.

Opinion: No more legislative secrecy

While Minnesota has generally done a good job passing and enforcing its open government laws, there is one glaring exception. The Minnesota Legislature itself needs to live by the open government rules it has dictated to everyone else.

Visit Detroit Lakes Online for the rest.

January 13, 2012 4:19 PM

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to previously:

Hospital errors could become public under proposed new Missouri rules

A spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association said the proposed change could eventually make those adverse events involving Medicaid patients more transparent. The agency that oversees Missouri's Medicaid program, the Department of Social Services, is subject to public records requests. Information about the adverse events is in billing data that the hospital submits.

Visit News-leader.com for the rest.

Numerous explosive finds in Wu-Tang clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s FBI files

The FBI recently released their file on the late rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard—of Wu-Tang Clan fame—thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, and it’s a doozy. The FBI alleges the Wu-Tang Clan was connected to various murders, drug deals, the Bloods gang, and other nefarious dealings.

Visit The Daily Beast for the rest.

New bill would put taxpayer-funded science behind pay walls

Right now, if you want to read the published results of the biomedical research that your own tax dollars paid for, all you have to do is visit the digital archive of the National Institutes of Health. There you’ll find thousands of articles on the latest discoveries in medicine and disease, all free of charge. A new bill in Congress wants to make you pay for that, thank you very much.

Visit ProPublica for the rest.

Maine governor seeks to exempt working papers from Freedom of Access Act

If you search "freedom of information" on the Maine state government's Web site, it will lead you to a page about the Freedom of Access Act, or FOAA. There, it says that the public's right to information about government activities lies at the heart of a democratic government. When Gov. Paul LePage was a candidate, he pledged to have an open and transparent government. But now he wants to exempt his working papers from FOAA.

Visit Maine Public Broadcasting Network for the rest.

Massachusetts to school committee: Announce release of meeting minutes

The state Attorney General's Office reminded the Melrose School Committee last summer that when executive session minutes are released, the committee must announce their availability, according to a letter released this week by the state. The letter closes an Open Meeting Law complaint filed with the Attorney General Office's Division of Open Government by resident Maryan Hollis, a regular attendee of School Committee meetings.

Visit Melrose, MA Patch for the rest.

Florida bill would require public comment at meetings

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida’s citizens would get the right to be heard on public issues, not just be seen, at meetings of local government and state executive branch bodies under a bill that cleared a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. The measure (SB 206) was filed in response to a pair of appellate court rulings that noted Florida’s open government “Sunshine Law” requires officials to meet in public but does not give citizens a right to speak at those meetings.

Visit Bradenton Herald for the rest.

January 6, 2012 1:42 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items from the last couple days that we might not have drawn attention to earlier:

Expert: Anaheim records policy violates state law

The Anaheim Planning Department's records retention policy violates state law by asking employees to purge certain city records before they are old enough to be legally destroyed, Voice of OC's open-government consultant, Terry Francke, said Wednesday.

[...]

"What the city is doing is administratively opting out of compliance with state law," said Francke, who is general counsel for the First Amendment advocacy group Californians Aware.

Visit Voice of OC for the rest.

Illinois state senator seeks inquiry into connections to state leases

A state senator wants Illinois government to probe its leases of buildings connected to Springfield businessman and Republican fundraiser William Cellini, who was convicted of corruption in November.

Visit State Journal-Register for the rest.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claims not supported by evidence

Syracuse, N.Y. — Case-by-case records provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that many fewer individuals were apprehended, deported or detained by the agency than were claimed in its official statements — congressional testimony, press releases, and the agency's latest 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.

The ICE data was provided to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in late December, almost two years — 582 days — after TRAC had requested it on May 17, 2010.

Visit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse for the rest.

Sherwood City (Ark.) Council members insist resolution did not violate FOIA

Sherwood City Council members deny violating the Freedom of Information Act regarding a controversial resolution condemning the mayor for not telling aldermen the city had received results of a $32,875 feasibility study concerning impact fees for builders.

According to the FOIA handbook, “A quorum of the governing body need not be present for the meeting to be subject to the FOIA. If two members meet informally to discuss past or pending business, that meeting may be subject to the FOIA.”

Visit Arkansas Leader for the rest.

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