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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August 4, 2014 9:02 AM

A non-profit watchdog group in Washington D.C. is criticizing Chattanooga's EPB over the costs associated with a recent open records request. A UTC student, and intern for the group, says he was slapped with a large fee after wanting to know more about how much the publicly-owned provider spends on advertising.

"They're not a private business. They're not Comcast. They're not Charter," says Ethan Greene. Ethan Greene says he was hit with a large fee when he filed an open records request to look into EPB's advertising agreements and spending, as well as emails from top management, spanning from 2012 to March 2014.

"In order for me to view those records, not to receive copies, but just to view them, that I first had to pay the fee that they assessed of $1,767.07," says Greene. He filed the request at the end of March. To see if the cost would drop, he filed separate requests in April but the fee stayed the same. In May, he wrote a check. "I got help from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. I mean, it was in my bank account, it came from my checking account that I paid." Continue>>>
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April 28, 2014 8:01 AM

The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking public release of the secret Red Team report. After two false starts and a billion dollars down the drain, the National Nuclear Security Administration is seeking to re-start its plan for a multi-billion dollar nuclear weapons production plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with a “Red Team” plan that is shrouded in secrecy. The Red Team, formed in January 2014 at the behest of NNSA Administrator Bruce Held, conducted tours of the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, were briefed on uranium operation there during the month of March, and provided a report to Held on April 15.

The secrecy surrounding the Red Team is almost complete—the only thing known about the team is the name of its leader, Dr. Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge. The names of other members of the team have not been disclosed to the public.

“The National Environmental Policy Act requires the government to conduct a public process before undertaking major federal actions. That process requires hearings, provides an opportunity for public comment, and requires the government to respond to those comments,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. Continue>>>
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Oak Ridge, TCOG, Tennessee
March 18, 2014 10:17 AM

Openness in government is not a liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Independent, TEA party or Libertarian issue. The importance of transparency in local, state and federal government should transcend parties and political ideologies.

Checks and balances provide few checks and little balance when officials broker deals behind closed doors and conceal documents that contain important information that citizens have the right, and often the need, to know.

Local government has the biggest impact in the lives of citizens on a day-to-day basis. Whether it is in the form of property taxes, sales taxes, personal property taxes, business taxes, state-shared dollars or federal grants, loans and funding, local government is 100 percent taxpayer funded. The decisions being made, the monies being spent and the records being kept by city hall, the county commission, the board of education or the utility district all belong to liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, TEA party volunteers, Libertarians and even politically disinterested individuals. All stakeholders have a stake in open meetings and public records and should care about transparency issues. Continue>>>
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March 10, 2014 2:33 AM

Liberty Institute, in partnership with the Washington, D.C. law firm Bancroft PLLC, recently submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Internal Revenue Service, the Treasury Department and the State Department on behalf of HaYovel, Inc., a Tennessee-based nonprofit dedicated to the support of small independent farmers in Israel.

The requests seek information related to the surprise field audit the IRS conducted of HaYovel in December 2010. The audit came a few months after the organization was featured prominently in a July 5, 2010 New York Times article titled Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank.

The FOIA requests seek to determine whether there is a connection between the New York Times article, the current administration's policies with regard to Israel's settlements in the West Bank, and the audit of HaYovel in 2010. Continue>>>
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February 20, 2014 1:11 AM

Governor Bill Haslam on Thursday announced the launch of “Transparent Tennessee,” an overhaul of the state’s transparency website to offer more user-friendly information online to Tennessee taxpayers.

Transparent Tennessee is a one-stop shop for searching public data on how state dollars are spent. The site includes a searchable checkbook with more interactive data related to state agency expenses, vendor payments and travel reimbursements.

“A state government that is accountable to Tennessee taxpayers is an important part of being customer-focused, efficient and effective,” Governor Haslam said. “The advanced function of this website will allow citizens more access to information about how state dollars are spent.” Continue>>>
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June 10, 2013 1:00 PM

From TimesFreePress.com:  NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state agency that oversees the welfare of Tennessee children is again at financial odds with news organizations seeking more information.

The Tennessean reported the Department of Children’s Services said this week that it would charge $34,952 to produce public records of children who died or nearly died during the past 11 months after having some contact with DCS.

 

March 28, 2012 2:54 AM

From Tennessee Secretary of State

The 2011-2012 Tennessee Blue Book, considered the manual of state government and state history, is now available online.

"Making the Blue Book available online is another way we can provide better service to our customers, the citizens of Tennessee," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "The newest edition of the Blue Book has updated graphics, photos and other enhancements that have not been available in previous editions. The staff of our Publications Division has embraced my challenge to look for new ways to add value to the work that we do here."

February 6, 2012 11:39 AM

From Thomson Reuters News & Insight:

At a time when advocates are pushing for more transparency in government, two states are fighting in court to limit citizens' access to public documents.

Virginia and Tennessee are defending their local versions of the Freedom of Information Act which allow them to respond only to public records requests from in-state residents — and deny requests from out-of-staters.

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