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

December 10, 2014 11:08 AM

City officials released public records Monday that had been previously denied to the Tulsa World by Mayor Dewey Bartlett, citing unwritten city policy that officials say exempts them from the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

The records released Monday regarded ethics complaints against Bartlett involving his decision to throw out plans for a sidewalk near A Gathering Place for Tulsa.

In his denial, Bartlett said he would release the complaints made against him after the investigation had been completed. Continue>>>

December 10, 2013 12:16 PM

From The Republic: OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court has agreed to take jurisdiction of a case by the parent company of The Oklahoman that seeks sealed divorce records of Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Edward Shadid II.

The court said in a Monday order that the Oklahoma Publishing Company has the right to pursue records that a lower court sealed and that it is likely a similar case could arise again.

Visit The Republic for more.



December 6, 2013 12:51 PM

From TULSA, Okla — Fifteen months after the Tulsa World requested public records relating to the now-gutted Justice Reinvestment Initiative, Gov. Mary Fallin's office has released more than 8,000 records related to the prison reforms.

The World is reviewing thousands of records to uncover answers as to what happened to the much-heralded package of reforms aimed at curbing prison growth that quickly lost momentum -- and funding -- after the governor signed the law in May 2012. Fallin's spokesman Alex Weintz said the long delay on the open records request was because of the volume of records reviewed by the Governor's Office and confusion by staff members.

Visit for more.



November 25, 2013 4:14 PM

From Daily Journal: OKLAHOMA CITY — Even though Gov. Mary Fallin remains locked in two separate legal battles over her office's refusal to release documents, her top lawyer insists Fallin's administration is the most transparent Oklahoma has ever seen.

Fallin signed a pledge while running for office to uphold both the spirit and the letter of the state's open government laws, but critics say she is falling far short, and a statewide organization dedicated to supporting the state's sunshine laws gave both Fallin and her general counsel its annual "Black Hole Award" this year for thwarting the free flow of information.

Visit Daily Journal for more.



October 25, 2013 12:43 PM

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.

OU student sues school over refusal to release parking-ticket records

image of Access keyWhat started out as a curiosity about whether certain students received favorable treatment on parking tickets has evolved into a legal battle pitting the state Open Records Act against federal privacy law concerns and a student against the university he attends. Joey Stipek sued the University of Oklahoma earlier this year after administration officials refused to make public an electronic database the school maintained of parking tickets issued by its personnel.


Kohr's Frozen Custard failed electrical inspection before boardwalk fire (N.J.)

The candy business seated above the wiring and electrical equipment that sparked a massive boardwalk fire last month passed its electrical inspection after superstorm Sandy, but the adjoining custard shop did not, a NJ Press Media investigation found. Biscayne Candies earned approval from a state electrical inspector in May to have its power restored before opening for the summer, according to records in the borough’s building department.


Treehouse dispute spurs Florida Sunshine Law investigation

The State Attorney's Office has asked Bradenton Police to investigate a possible Sunshine Law violation by City of Holmes Beach officials. ... Attorneys for Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran, who own a controversial treehouse in Holmes Beach, sent a letter to State Attorney Ed Brodsky on Sept. 5, alleging that the Holmes Beach city commission violated the Sunshine Law on Aug. 29 when they met with their city attorneys to discuss the treehouse case.


Wisconsin court rejects state's argument that media shouldn't intervene in 'John Doe' case

The Court of Appeals is rejecting the state's argument that media companies and First Amendment advocates should not be allowed to intervene in a criminal appeal of one of Scott Walker's former aides. In an order filed Wednesday, Judge Patricia Curley wrote that there's no indication the state is pushing for the unsealing of certain records in the case, which is what media companies want in the case.


Editorial: Delaware Chancery Court process should be open to public

Delawareans are proud of the state’s court system. They recognize that Delaware’s courts not only serve the public in criminal and civil matters. They also play a powerful role in the state’s economy. That is particularly true of Delaware’s Chancery Court. It has a national reputation for depth, sophistication and impartiality. Not only that, many of Chancery’s business-vs.-business cases bring in revenue for the state. Important as that is, we must remember that Chancery is part of the state’s legal system and is therefore accountable to the public.


Indiana Board of Education member asking court to dismiss Glenda Ritz's lawsuit

Another day, another round of contention in the power struggle between the state’s voter-elected superintendent and the governor-appointed board of education. One day after Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz sued the board, contending that members were operating in secret without her knowledge, a board member said Wednesday his attorney was filing a motion to dismiss her suit. The state’s attorney general also weighed in, saying he hoped to help resolve the matter without going to court.


Secrecy surrounds fraud allegations in New Mexico mental health audit

In June, New Mexico’s Behavioral Health care system was thrown into chaos — the state abruptly froze Medicaid payments to more than a dozen mental health providers in the state after an audit allegedly found widespread fraud. Those providers served nearly 30,000 patients, but neither the public nor those accused have been able to see the actual audit because the state says an investigation continues.


Editorial: Open records law should apply to Penn State, other taxpayer-supported institutions

There was a curious moment — or a series of curious moments — during Monday’s state Senate committee hearing on proposed changes to the state’s open records law as it pertains to Penn State and the commonwealth’s three other state-related universities. Lawyers for Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln argued that the universities -- supported by state taxpayers, but not considered state schools -- should be exempt from aspects of the open records law because they are not state agencies and do not enjoy the state’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits.


Proposal would allow Florida universities to withhold names of candidates for top jobs

Those seeking jobs as provost, dean or president at one of Florida’s public universities could receive public records protection over their names and work history being released to the public under a law proposed by state Rep. Dave Kerner. Under the measure, universities could withhold names and resume information on job candidates seeking key executive posts, similar to the practice in states including like Pennsylvania, Delaware and Michigan, which have far weaker public records provisions than Florida.


Penn State record access debated

HARRISBURG - Fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child abuse sex scandal put higher education officials on the defensive Monday as they fought to keep their academic exemption under the state open records law. The exemption for Penn State University and three other state-related universities has existed since the law's enactment in 2009. Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, and others have proposed ending it as part of an open records law rewrite.


South Dakota newspaper presses FOIA fight for food stamp payment data

South Dakota's Argus Leader newspaper urged a federal appeals court Wednesday to reverse a ruling blocking the newspaper from receiving data on how much the federal government pays to stores that redeeem food stamp benefits. Jon Arneson, an attorney for the newspaper, told a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that a lower court judge misinterpreted the law by ruling that a confidentiality provision for retailer applications allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withhold all data on payments to those retailers. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper requested the data on annual payments to each retailer approved to take part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.


Open records at issue in Detroit conference

Detroit— Last year, Wayne County informed reporters that it would cost some $1.8 million if they wanted months of emails from Executive Robert Ficano and three former aides. The explanation: The county’s computer network would need to be backed up to retrieve a single email and lawyers would need to spend 66,000 hours — about 7 1/2 years working around the clock — reviewing all the data.


October 24, 2013 12:13 PM

From Tulsa World: OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal to a state appellate court ruling that states dash-cam video made by the Claremore Police Department in 2011 does constitute a public record under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

The City of Claremore had filed a petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the Court of Civil Appeals ruling. That request was denied Monday, with all the Supreme Court justices concurring, court records show.

Visit Tulsa World for more.



October 9, 2013 2:18 PM

From KJRH: GLENPOOL, Okla. - This little city just south of Tulsa on Highway 75 has grown a lot over the past few years.

It has recently added a new community center and city hall, but it's what Tommy Carner says is going on inside the new buildings, that prompted him to run for Glenpool city council.


Carner helped gather signatures for a state audit in February of 2012. Two years later, the 75-page audit has been released.


The document lists concerns about transparency, lack of documentation and concerns over violations of the state's Open Records Act.

Visit KJRH for more.



October 9, 2013 1:33 PM

From OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state legislator on Tuesday quizzed two court clerks over why public court records aren't readily available online during a hearing examining broadening Oklahoma's Open Records Act.

Norman Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles requested Tuesday's interim study before the House Judiciary Committee to review how the act applies to certain court files.

Visit for more.



August 27, 2013 9:53 AM

From Claremore Daily Progress:  Rogers County Clerk Robin Anderson is accusing a Claremore Daily Progress reporter of harassing her and her staff in a confrontation over public records.

Anderson called the sheriff’s office on Aug. 14 to complain that reporter Salesha Wilken created a disturbance in her office that afternoon.

Wilken had asked to see public meeting minutes and agendas not posted in county record books. Anderson and her staff refused Wilken’s request, prompting the reporter to question the apparent violation of the state’s Open Records law.


The report by Deputy Daniel Welch notes that Wilken provided an audio recording of the exchange the following day. The recording shows the reporter made no threats and no request to enter the inner-office.

Anderson claims Wilken illegally recorded the conversation. State law allows for such recordings as long as one party to the conversation is aware of it.

Continue . . .


July 12, 2013 9:38 AM

From FOI Oklahoma, Inc.:  Gov. Mary Fallin is claiming an executive privilege to hide records that reveal political considerations behind her decisions on state policy.

Included would be documents telling Fallin "who might be supportive of certain policy agendas in the legislature, both now and in the future, whether such support would exist after an upcoming election, and whether facts exist to help persuade the legislatures and others to support the governor's agenda," according to the formal response to an Open Records Act lawsuit against the governor. 


Fallin is the first Oklahoma governor to claim these privileges even though as a candidate she pledged to "support at every opportunity" the state's policy that "people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power." 

Fallin's unprecedented use of executive privilege in Oklahoma earned her FOI Oklahoma's annual Black Hole Award in early March.

FOI Oklahoma, Inc. is a member of NFOIC.--eds.


July 12, 2013 9:12 AM

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.

The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Opinion: Overturn bad ethics law

The apparent intent of the law is to help prevent public officials from being embarrassed or compromised by frivolous complaints to the ethics board. But we believe the public is smart enough to sort through competing claims and counterclaims as ethics complaints work their way through the system. To make such informed judgments, citizens need an open, transparent process in which those bringing ethics complaints — and those defending against such complaints — have wide latitude to speak freely. The present law, which favors those in authority at the expense of those who challenge authority, seems like an exercise in dictatorship, not democracy.


North Jersey Media Group sues Gov. Christie for public records

Gov. Chris Christie's office refuses to release records that could show just what Republican campaign contributors did under state contracts after Hurricane Sandy, The Record newspaper claims in court. The North Jersey Media Group, whose flagship is The Record, sued New Jersey, the Governor's Office and Custodian of Records Hillary Hewit, in Mercer County Court. Record reporter Shawn Boburg submitted an Open Public Records Act request for invoices and attachments submitted to the state by Witt Group Holdings. The state eventually produced records but the timesheets were "heavily redacted," The Record says in the complaint. It wants to see the unredacted records.


Battle Ground (Wash.) school district may have violated state law

Battle Ground Public Schools appears to have violated the state's Public Records Act by withholding a severance agreement with its embattled former superintendent. The school board members signed an agreement with Superintendent Shonny Bria on April 29, withheld the document for almost two months, and when The Columbian and The Reflector made specific public records requests about Bria's compensation, the district denied that such a record existed. "When it's signed by both parties, it then becomes a public document," said Matt Miller, deputy state auditor of the Washington State Auditor's Office. Miller said he will be looking at the Battle Ground case.


FOI Oklahoma blog: Governor claims political influences on state policy should be kept secret

Gov. Mary Fallin is claiming an executive privilege to hide records that reveal political considerations behind her decisions on state policy. Included would be documents telling Fallin "who might be supportive of certain policy agendas in the legislature, both now and in the future, whether such support would exist after an upcoming election, and whether facts exist to help persuade the legislatures and others to support the governor's agenda," according to the formal response to an Open Records Act lawsuit against the governor. Fallin is the first Oklahoma governor to claim these privileges even though as a candidate she pledged to "support at every opportunity" the state's policy that "people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power."


Connecticut FOI advocate says law after Sandy Hook shootings protecting photos goes too far

[Senate Bill 1149] was born behind closed doors in secret meetings among the governor’s staff, legislative leaders and the state’s top prosecutor. It bypassed the traditional public hearing process and was signed into law within 12 hours of the vote. Along the way, the exemptions in the bill were expanded from Newtown-specific privacy protections to include protections for all homicide victims when the the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus of senators and House members argued that lone victims on city streets should be entitled to the same respect as the Newtown victims and their families.


Man files FOIA lawsuit against Whitestone (N.Y.) over civic virtue

A group advocating for the Triumph of Civic Virtue statue has filed a lawsuit against a city agency, claiming that it did not fully comply with its Freedom of Information request. Robert LoScalzo, a Whitestone resident and documentary filmmaker, submitted a lawsuit against the Dept. of Citywide Administrative Services accusing the agency of not handing over all the documents he asked for in his FOIA application. ... The FOIA requested that DCAS hand over all of their communication documents with Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, where the structure was moved and the contractor who performed the job.


Editorial: Public info belongs to the people of King County (Wash.)

In the Shoreline case, the information was being sought by Beth and Doug O’Neil after the content of an email criticizing the Shoreline City Council was read aloud at a meeting and incorrectly attributed to Beth O’Neil. She wanted to know who wrote the email and requested a copy. They received the email but not the metadata ... Four years later, in 2010, the state Supreme Court ruled metadata were subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. But the city hired computer experts who searched for the original message and later testified it was lost, according to The Associated Press. And that brings us to the $538,555 award by the judge — $438,555 for legal costs and $100,000 in damages.


Hartford Courant Editorial: Who loses when the public's business is done in secret?

During this year's session of the General Assembly, more than the usual amount of legislation was negotiated in secret, pushed to passage without a public hearing, sprung on unsuspecting lawmakers by leaders in the session's last minutes or otherwise hatched without proper vetting. The legislative corner-cutting at the expense of transparency is becoming so prevalent that some harried freedom-of-information advocates bandied about the idea of a constitutional amendment that would prohibit legislation from becoming law without a public hearing.


May 3, 2013 1:26 PM

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.


Blackfoot woman receives Idaho open government award

BLACKFOOT — Retired Blackfoot High School teacher and active substitute teacher Joyce Bingham never expected to receive an award for becoming a champion of open government. ... Bingham will receive the award and accompanying $1,000 prize at an awards luncheon scheduled for Saturday in Boise.

Visit Idaho State Journal for the rest.

Illinois lawsuit filed in police document case

A Springfield man is suing the city, claiming the police department improperly destroyed documents in an internal affairs file that he had requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Calvin Christian III, a reporter for the Pure News USA Newspaper, is requesting that the city check to see if any employees have copies of the destroyed files, and that an expert examine the city’s computer system to determine if the files are retrievable in electronic form. If there are no copies, he’s asking that witnesses be re-interviewed.

Visit The State Journal-Register for the rest.

The Tornoe Spin: Open government in Delaware

With Delaware lawmakers considering big legislation like Marriage Equality, gun control and the death penalty, an equally-import group of bills is getting almost no attention from the majority, and very little play by media outlets. Back in March, Republicans introduced five bills that attempt to make Legislative Hall and state government more open and transparent. The bills not only include calls for tighter requirements on reporting gifts and tax disclosures, they ban legislators from seeking state employment after being elected (the so-called "double-dippers") and bar former legislators from acting as lobbyists for two years after they leave office.

Visit for the rest.

FOIA documents cause controversy for Troy city councilman, Michigan

Just days before the Troy special mayoral election, some residents are trying to piece together FOIA documents to figure out what was happening behind the scenes in the state and city’s dispute late last year on holding a special election. Troy City Councilman Doug Tietz is receiving criticism from residents who say he was working against his city to benefit his own political agenda and has violated council rules because he has a conflict of interest.

Visit The Oakland Press for the rest.

Provost’s office denies access to open records

The provost’s office could be in violation of Oklahoma’s Open Records Act by forcing faculty to sue for personnel records related to tenure appointments. Most employment records are not open to the public, but the Open Records Act expressly states personnel records should be given to the employee. The act reads: “Except as may otherwise be made confidential by statute, an employee of a public body shall have a right of access to his own personnel file.”

Visit The Oklahoma Daily for the rest.

A new plateau for public info

Finger Lakes, N.Y. — Mountains of data on everything from nursing homes to radon gas, from restaurant inspections to state aid for schools is accessible via a few clicks on one website: On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the addition of millions more records added to the mix that can be searched by keyword; cross-referenced with other public datasets; downloaded for analysis; and graphed, mapped or charted using tools on the website.

Visit for the rest.

Louisiana judge rules against Reveille in public records suit

A state district judge refused Tuesday to order LSU’s Board of Supervisors to make public the names of 35 candidates for the recently filled position of president and chancellor, rejecting a petition by the editor of LSU’s student newspaper. Judge Timothy Kelley agreed with the attorney for the university that the 35 candidates were not formal applicants for the position and therefore were not subject to disclosure under the state’s public records laws.

Visit The Advocate for the rest.

SF mayor signs landmark open data policy and procedures legislation

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee last week signed into law the Citywide Coordination of Open Data Policy and Procedures legislation introduced jointly with Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. This new landmark Open Data law establishes the position and duties of a new chief data officer to be appointed by the mayor, and orders that departmental data coordinators assist in the implementation of the Open Data Policy. The ordinance also establishes rules and procedures for making open data available through the city’s open data Web portal.

Visit Government Technology for the rest.

Florida lawmakers considering public records exemptions

TALLAHASSEE - Florida lawmakers are considering a wide range of public-records exemptions – some technicalities, others clouding the state's “Government in the Sunshine” traditions – as they head into the final week of their 2013 legislative session. ... Proponents of the measures, on the other hand, argue in some cases that exempting certain information from public disclosure will protect people from harm and make the state more attractive to job-creating businesses.

Visit The Tampa Tribune for the rest.

Proposed bill would cap Michigan FOIA fees

LANSING — A state Republican lawmaker who represents part of Eaton County is again trying to limit the amount of money governments can charge to honor Michigan residents’ requests for public information. But his plan faces initial resistance from lobbyists representing Michigan communities.

Visit Lansing State Journal for the rest.

Capital outlay documents raise questions of NM open records act

State legislators are apparently not legally required to reveal details of how they spend taxpayers’ money. While investigating a story about “A Park Above” — a planned park for Rio Rancho that would provide equipment that would allow disabled children and adults to play alongside their non-disabled peers — the Observer discovered a legal exemption to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act for legislators.

Visit Rio Rancho Observer for the rest.

Gun-control law to make ownership records private

A little-noticed provision tucked at the end of the sweeping gun legislation approved by the General Assembly last month would shield from view key state gun records that now are public — a change that was pushed by gun-rights advocates during the intense legislative debate and passed unknown to the most ardent gun-control supporters. Current laws allow the Maryland State Police to release the names of people who apply to buy guns, who hold collector's licenses and concealed-carry permits, as well as details about weapon sales. Under the new gun bill, which Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he will sign, that information would no longer be available to the public.

Visit The Baltimore Sun for the rest.

Court nixes damages against N.M. attorney general

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The state Court of Appeals has overturned damages against Attorney General Gary King for withholding public records requested by a lawyer handling a pay discrimination case against King. The court said Thursday a district court judge in Albuquerque failed to provide evidence to support $100-a-day damages against the attorney general.

Visit for the rest.

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