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 19, 2011 1:15 PM

From MassLive.com:

AMHERST — The attorney general has expressed concern over the revelation that the University of Massachusetts discarded records from its closed-door search for a new president, prompting scrutiny by the Bay State's top prosecutor for the second time since August, when UMass was ordered to release full and accurate records.

UMass spokesman Robert P. Connolly on Thursday acknowledged that a secretary threw out meeting notes related to the search process that ultimately led to the hiring of Robert L. Caret, who took over as president of the five-school, 69,000-student public university system in July.

December 16, 2011 4:51 PM

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

Obama administration makes some transparency gains; challenges remain

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and OpenTheGovernment.org released a joint report, Measuring Transparency Under the FOIA: The Real Story Behind the Numbers, analyzing the government’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data for 2010 and how it compares to the previous administration’s data.

Visit CREW for the rest.

Transparency lags as Bradley Manning case opens

After more than 18 months, the veil on the military's case against Private Bradley Manning is set to be pulled back a bit Friday, as a public legal hearing gets underway into the evidence supporting charges that Manning leaked thousands of classified military reports and diplomatic cables to the online document repository WikiLeaks.

Visit Politico for the rest.

Virginia Supreme Court will hear Clifton Elementary FOIA case

Virginia’s highest court will hear a case involving the closure of Clifton Elementary School. Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to grant an appeal to a Clifton resident who filed a lawsuit in reference to Fairfax County Public School’s alleged Freedom of Information Act violations.

Visit FairfaxStationPatch for the rest.

Columbia (Mo.) police claim open records deter complaints

Some residents are hesitant to file complaints against officers because those reports will be public record, Columbia police told the Citizens Police Review Board last night, suggesting a possible change in policy to limit public access to the information.

Visit Columbia Daily Tribune for the rest.

SC Gov. Haley refuses to answer questions about public documents request

Gov. Nikki Haley today refused during a public appearance to answer a reporter's questions about public documents her administration has failed to provide. [Thursday's] appearance was the time her spokesman said the governor would be available to discuss a possible violation of the state public records law and other recent criticism of her influence over an independent health panel.

Visit The Post and Courier for the rest.

N.J. Attorney General blocks public knowledge of State Police overtime pay

In what some advocates of open government call an unprecedented overreach, Attorney General Paula Dow has blocked the public from knowing how much overtime State Police troopers and other state law enforcement officers earn.

Visit nj.com for the rest.

December 16, 2011 10:12 AM

From Open Channel on MSNBC:

It appears it was legal for Mitt Romney's aides, on their way out of the governor's office in Massachusetts in 2006, to write personal checks for $65 each to buy the hard drives from their state office computers, taking with them government emails and other records of his administration, including information about the birth of the Romney health care insurance mandate.

[...]

"Public officials need an attitude adjustment," said Ken Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri. "They need to recognize that the instruments of the government don't belong to them. They belong to the people. Self-government doesn't work without information. Government records, including emails, ought to be available without filing a lawsuit, without any more than a keystroke."

December 15, 2011 12:51 PM

From The Baltimore Sun:

An effort to open Maryland state government to greater scrutiny, while making the General Assembly more "transparent," got off the ground Wednesday as a panel set up for that purpose convened for the first time.

The Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government, created by the legislatuire during its session last year, got off to a late start because of delays in naming its members. But during yesterday's organizational meeting, the committee discussed some wide-ranging initiatives to make it easier for citizens to keep up with what state government is doing.

December 15, 2011 12:47 PM

Opinion from The Times Leader:

[...]

The key: Strip away the secrecy of those involved, and their bad behavior ends.

That same notion applies on a much larger and more consequential level in Pennsylvania, where state law allows people – often with the help of the startup state Office of Open Records – to sleuth through public information about state and county governments, local school boards and other taxpayer-funded bodies.

open records laws
December 15, 2011 12:41 PM

From The Wichita Eagle:

WICHITA — Go Wichita, the convention and visitors’ bureau, will receive its annual budget of more than $2 million in public funds amid concerns that it does not comply with open-government laws.

[...]

What looked like a routine measure on the council agenda erupted into a debate about whether private agencies funded by the public should be exempt from state open records laws.

December 15, 2011 12:38 PM

From The Sun Journal:

PORTLAND — Six Maine counties are hoping the state's highest court will overturn a lower court decision that sided with a company seeking registry of deeds documents at a lower cost than the counties want to charge.

MacImage of Maine LLC, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, argued Tuesday that the registries of deeds' records are public under Maine law and that the public is allowed to inspect and copy those records at a reasonable cost.

Maine Freedom of Information Coalition is a member of NFOIC. -- eds.

December 14, 2011 9:44 AM

From Computerworld:

The FBI has denied a request for the release of information regarding its use of Carrier IQ's software, saying that releasing the information could interfere with ongoing law enforcement operations.

[...]

The request under the Freedom of Information Act was filed Dec. 1 by Michael Morisy, co-founder of MuckRock, a website that helps people file FOIA requests with the government. Morisy asked the FBI for any manuals, documents or other written material it might have related to the FBI's use of data gathered by Carrier IQ.

December 14, 2011 9:41 AM

From The Republic:

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Supreme Court scrapped a plan Monday that would have allowed birth dates and home addresses to be excluded from public court documents.

The new rule applies to district courts across the state and was developed as part of the high court's plan to develop a statewide court system database that will allow the public to have online access to virtually every document filed in all 77 of the state's courthouses.

December 14, 2011 9:38 AM

From OMB Watch:

Heading into the holiday season, many Americans think not just of gifts and snowdrifts, but also of another winter tradition: football. As it happens, gridiron analogies are a good way to think about the year's events in the arena of government transparency and right-to-know.

In March, OMB Watch published an assessment of President Obama's first two seasons as coach, which showed remarkable progress for Team Transparency. Throughout 2011, Obama and his staff made strong decisions, but there were also a few setbacks along the way.

OMB Watch, transparency
December 14, 2011 9:36 AM

From The Republic:

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — A push to dilute Tennessee's open meetings law is based on a misunderstanding of restrictions now on the books, an open government advocate said.

[...]

Frank Gibson, founding director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said the law does allow local officials to have a phone conversation or lunch but not to negotiate for their votes.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. -- eds.

December 12, 2011 11:08 AM

From Wired:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said Friday he would demand answers from the Department of Homeland Security about its domain seizure program known as Operation in Our Sites after it was revealed that the government kept a hip-hop music review site’s name for a year without affording the owner a chance to challenge the seizure.

[...]

“I expect the administration will be receiving a series of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests from our office and that the senator will have very pointed questions with regard to how the administration chooses to target the sites that it does,” said Jennifer Hoelzer, a Wyden spokeswoman. She said the senator was “particularly interested in learning how many secret dockets exist for copyright cases. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious precedent or explanation for that.”

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