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 27, 2011 10:15 AM

From The Modesto Bee:

MODESTO — Officials seem intent on charging a steep 35 cents per page for copies of public records at Modesto City Hall, which some believe would discourage people from keeping tabs on government.

In recent years, government watchers have been charged different rates — or nothing — to obtain paper copies of city records. Access to everything from financial records to the travel expenses of elected officials is considered essential to holding public agencies accountable.

December 27, 2011 10:11 AM

From GoUpstate.com:

In a possible violation of state law, former Gov. Mark Sanford's administration deleted a massive trove of emails from state-provided accounts during the administration's final days and turned over only a small amount of the emails from the administration's eight years in office.

Such emails historically have provided valuable insight into how administrations set public policy.

December 27, 2011 10:07 AM

From SunSentinel.com:

Florida public records laws are often called among the toughest in the nation. But that was b4 txt msging.

The state updated its public records rules last year to advise that text messages, Facebook comments, Tweets and other communications on "emerging communications technologies'' might be public records, depending on their content.

December 23, 2011 10:45 AM

From Nextgov:

Privacy advocates are suing the Homeland Security Department to obtain information on a program that monitors the social media interactions of citizens following a federal vendor's private sector plans to sabotage certain groups' online activities with similar technology.

Homeland Security officials have expanded an ongoing initiative that tracks public online communications in the interests of public safety, according a February DHS notice.

December 23, 2011 10:40 AM

Happy Holidays!

A few items selected from many of interest that we might not have drawn attention to earlier:

ACLU ready to challenge Clinton (Ia.) over records

CLINTON, Iowa — The Citizens for Open Government group has been denied its request for obtaining closed meeting records from the city of Clinton regarding the federal lawsuit over ambulance billings by the city.

[...]

Randall Wilson with American Civil Liberties Union in Iowa, who has been working with the Clinton group, said that "[t]here is a legal process, and that’s what we’ll be doing.”

Visit Quad-City Times for the rest.

Past mistakes spur city to focus on ensuring an open government

In March, the Manhattan Beach City Council sent out an open letter to residents promising a commitment to open and transparent government. The council had just paid a settlement to an open government watchdog over its handling of the abrupt departure of its former city manager. In the letter, the council admitted heeding poor legal advice from its soon-to-be-fired city attorney and apologized for leaving residents in the dark, a decision that had led to a lawsuit. Residents’ faith in the council was shaky at best.

Visit The Beach Reporter for the rest.

Pro-copyright group takes SOPA to task

The Heritage Foundation, probably the nation's most influential conservative advocacy group, has long been a reliable ally of large copyright holders. But not when it comes to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act.

Visit CNET for the rest.

NY Times wants info on 'killing as a policy tool'

The New York Times sued the Department of Justice for "at least one legal memorandum" government lawyers are believed to have written detailing "the scope of the circumstances in which it is lawful for government officials to employ targeted killing as a policy tool."

Visit Courthouse News Service for the rest.

Gazette-Journal prevails in lawsuit; public retirement program must turn over information

A Carson City judge signed an order Thursday telling the Public Employees Retirement System of Nevada to release to the Reno Gazette-Journal the names of all retired employees in Nevada and the amount of their benefit.

Visit Reno Gazette-Journal for the rest.

 

Court's OPRA message to state is clear

The check has been cashed. But worth more than the $40,290.80 the state had to fork over to the Asbury Park Press would be the assurance that government officials and agencies in New Jersey fully understand the nature and purpose of the Open Public Records Act.

Visit DailyJournal.com for the rest.

Videos from Allentown police cameras are not public records

With the recent release of an Allentown police video showing a police officer shooting a teenager with a stun gun, you may be wondering whether you can request clips from the video camera on your corner. The answer is no.

Visit Watchdog for the rest.

Legal details justifying assassination of U.S. citizen need transparency

From an editorial we missed.

A SECRET panel that decides when a U.S. citizen can be assassinated? Government employees repeatedly stealing computers from a top-secret nuclear laboratory? What's going on? You can't be told because these are state secrets.

Visit Seattle Times for the rest.

December 22, 2011 4:06 PM

From Nextgov:

The Center for American Progress think tank and the transparency group Public.Resource.Org want to turn the vast holdings of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Government Printing Office and other government agencies into the core of a national digital public library.

"We are not necessarily suggesting that the federal government immediately undertake an ambitious effort to scan [all government] holdings," CAP Chairman John Podesta and Public Resources President Carl Malamud wrote in an online petition titled "Yes we Scan" posted Wednesday.

December 22, 2011 3:22 PM

From lehighvalleylive.com:

Two Republican New Jersey lawmakers want to pull back the curtain on the state’s public records law by removing some provisions that exempt legislators.

Assemblyman John Amodeo and Assemblyman-elect Chris Brown plan to introduce in January a bill to allow the decade-old Open Public Records Act, known as OPRA, to apply to communications between legislators and other governmental agencies.

December 22, 2011 10:09 AM

From The Atlantic Cities:

Today, most major cities now offer some form of an online data catalog. You can find them at datasf.org or data.seattle.gov or data.cityofchicago.org. They contain both handy maps for novices (including, say, the locations of every bike rack in downtown Seattle) and sortable raw data sets for enterprising developers who can turn all these spreadsheets into smart-phone applications.

Non-profit initiatives like Civic Commons are meanwhile partnering with cities to convert valuable data into even more useful urban solutions like bus-tracking systems.

December 22, 2011 10:04 AM

From Knoxville News Sentinel:

Knox County commissioners have unanimously signed off on a resolution to notify local legislators they oppose any changes to Tennessee's Open Meetings Act.

"I think it's something we need to do, based on past history," commission Chairman Mike Hammond said, referring to Black Wednesday when commissioners in January 2007 cut deals to replace some elected officials with friends, family and cronies.

December 22, 2011 10:00 AM

From nj.com:

DELAWARE TWP. — The $17,239 the township has spent over the past two years defending two lawsuits and a complaint is “inexcusable. There’s no reason to spend that kind of money for nothing,” says Dianne Rankin. “This was a big waste of money.”

The legal fees were accrued because Rankin filed the civil suits and then a complaint with the state Government Records Council. All were avoidable, she says.

December 22, 2011 9:54 AM

From PatriotLedger.com:

WEYMOUTH — The Patriot Ledger is asking the state attorney general’s office to investigate what it alleges are two violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law by the Weymouth School Committee and the town’s superintendent search committee.

In complaints filed with the attorney general’s office’s Division of Open Government, The Ledger alleges that the committees violated sections of the law requiring public bodies to maintain complete records of their meetings, called minutes, and to post accurate agendas in advance of meetings.

December 21, 2011 11:44 AM

From the Chicago Tribune:

SPARLAND, Ill. — Another official has resigned in Sparland, leaving the central Illinois village board with no quorum.

The departure of trustee Kenneth Crew brings to six the number of officials who have resigned in the last few days.

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