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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February 28, 2012 11:50 PM

From NFOIC:

Nominations are still being accepted for a new inductee into the Open Government Hall of Fame.

Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their respective states.

Specifically, induction into the Hall recognizes “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.” All nominees will be evaluated by a screening committee of SPJ and NFOIC leaders, who will select the winners.

For more information, see http://www.nfoic.org/open-government-hall-of-fame or http://www.spj.org/a-heroes50.asp, call SPJ Headquarters at 317.927.8000, email awards@spj.org, or contact Ken Bunting, executive director of NFOIC, at buntingk@missouri.edu or 573.882.3075.

Please send all nomination materials in electronic format to buntingk@missouri.edu or ship them to:
Ken Bunting
NFOIC Executive Director
University of Missouri-Columbia
101E Reynolds Journalism Institute
Columbia, MO 65211

Deadline for submissions is March 16, 2012.

 

February 25, 2012 2:19 PM

From Connecticut Mirror:

The House of Representatives adopted an emergency fix Thursday to the state's right-to-know law that could break a legal logjam blocking the release of voter lists and other omnibus public registries.

The bill, which passed 120-11 and now heads to the Senate, would allow public agencies to release major voter and property databases without the arduous task of identifying and redacting addresses of police officers, prison guards and other "protected" public employees.

February 25, 2012 2:13 PM

From Fayetteville Flyer:

Marilyn Heifner, executive director of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, is facing a class C misdemeanor charge for allegedly violating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

A complaint by the Northwest Arkansas Times filed with the city prosecutor alleges Heifner denied reporter Joel Walsh access to a counteroffer regarding the lease and purchase of the Old Post Office building.

February 25, 2012 2:08 PM

From Bangor Daily News:

Media members and others testified Thursday before a legislative committee in opposition to a proposal from the governor that would exempt all of his “working papers” from Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

The bill, which was approved in December by a majority of the Legislature’s right-to-know advisory committee, essentially would grant Maine’s executive branch the same exemption that has been afforded to the legislative branch for more than 50 years.

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 23, 2012 3:47 PM

From Politico:

The federal government is under no obligation to release mugshots of accused criminals under the Freedom of Information Act, even though many states and localities routinely make such booking photos public, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit's decision, issued by a unanimous three-judge panel, rejected a request by the Tulsa World for the booking photos of six individuals who were indicted by grand juries and processed by the U.S. Marshals Service. The ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, which has pledged to be more open than any previous one, but has staunchly defended the federal government's longstanding non-disclosure policy for mugshots.

FOIA, mugshots, Tulsa world
February 23, 2012 3:38 PM

From New York Times:

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.

The manual, a 2011 reference guide for analysts working with the department’s Media Monitoring Capability program, raises questions about recent claims by Homeland Security officials who portrayed the program as limited to gathering information that would help gain operational awareness about attacks, disasters or other emerging problems.

February 23, 2012 3:22 PM

From RT:

Despite requests made under the Freedom of Information Act for correspondence out of the White House, the Obama administration is refusing to comply with calls to disclose discussions with Monsanto-linked lobbyists.

The US-based non-profit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is demanding that the White House comply with a FOIA request for information that might link the Obama administration with lobbyists tied to the Monsanto corporation. Monsanto, an agricultural biotech company that rakes in billions each year, has become the enemy of independent farmers in recent years after the corporation has sued hundreds of small-time growers and, in many cases, purchased farms that are unable to compete in a court of law.

February 23, 2012 9:59 AM

COLUMBIA, Mo. (February 22, 2012) – In a federal district court lawsuit supported by the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Knight FOI Fund, a Virginia watchdog organization is challenging a new CIA regulation that obstructs citizen challenges to government overclassification by imposing excessive charges in the review process.

National Security Counselors (NSC), an Arlington-based public interest group, has filed suit in federal district court challenging a new CIA regulation that could cost information seekers up to $72 an hour, even when a mandatory review fails to declassify or release any new information.

Under the new rule, the Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) program, through which the public can request that CIA documents be declassified, would also require information-seekers to agree to a minimum $15 duplication fee. Concerns are that these exorbitant fees will stymie the efforts of the public to participate in the MDR program and seek the declassification of public information.

See the full release and the complaint here.

February 21, 2012 4:42 PM

From ClarionLedger.com:

The city of Jackson fails about four times in 10 to respond to public records requests within the time limit set by state law.

A Clarion-Ledger analysis of open records logs identified around 225 requests that weren't fulfilled within seven business days since the law was changed in July 2010. About 365 requests were completed in time, while the status of dozens of others could not be determined because of poor record keeping.

February 21, 2012 4:33 PM

From SanLuisObispo.com:

The Oceano Community Services District has been warned that it could face litigation unless district officials correct two issues stemming from a meeting earlier this month.

Terry Francke, general counsel for the open government advocacy group Californians Aware, cautioned Monday that the district’s handling of public comments is not compliant with the state’s open-meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Californians Aware is a member of NFOIC. -- eds.

February 21, 2012 4:29 PM

From Deseret News:

SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, an attempt to change Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act led to a raucus Capitol Hill rally, outraged editorials and citizens throughout the state up in arms.

This year, the effort to amend the public records access law, known as GRAMA, met with no opposition as the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 6-0 Tuesday to send SB177 on to the full Senate.

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