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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May 14, 2015 2:17 PM

The Boston Globe sued the police departments in Boston and North Andover as well as several state agencies on Tuesday to obtain copies of police reports, mug shots, and prison booking logs, arguing the records must be made public under the state’s open records law.

The paper filed the lawsuit after state and local police withheld photos and reports of more than a half-dozen law enforcement officers who were charged with drunken driving and a judge who was accused of stealing a watch at Logan Airport. Boston police wouldn’t even name the police officers who were arrested.

“This case raises important issues involving the public’s right to know and transparency in government,” said Mark Hileman, the Globe’s general counsel. “The Globe brought this suit because we believe the [Criminal Offender Record Information] Act is being applied to block public access to law enforcement records in ways never intended by the Legislature.” Continue>>>
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May 5, 2015 1:09 PM

In a scathing critique of the Defense Department's efforts to curb sexual assaults, a U.S. senator warned Monday that the true scope of sex-related violence in the military communities is "vastly underreported" and that victims continue to struggle for justice.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a report that the Pentagon refused to provide her with all the information she requested about sexual assaults at several major bases. The material she did receive revealed that the spouses of service members and civilian women who live or work near military facilities are especially vulnerable to being sexually assaulted. Yet they "remain in the shadows" because neither is counted in Defense Department surveys to determine the prevalence of sexual assaults, the report said.

"I don't think the military is being honest about the problem," Gillibrand said in an interview. Continue>>>
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April 22, 2015 12:42 PM

The debate is underway in D.C. over making footage from police body cameras public.

City officials say a big challenge is blurring out certain images which they view as private.

The proposal by the mayor's office to keep all footage private is meeting resistance with the president of the D.C. Police Union as well as several government watchdog groups. Continue>>>
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April 21, 2015 2:05 PM

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management finally released some records related to last year’s Bundy ranch confrontation in Bunkerville. Considering the limited number and scope of documents provided to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, one of two scenarios is true: Either the BLM is so incompetent that it put no thought into the overdone cattle roundup and never analyzed the guns-drawn showdown that resulted, or it’s so arrogant and unaccountable that its leaders believe they can ignore the law.

As reported by the Review-Journal’s Keith Rogers, the agency provided PEER with a few dozen heavily redacted records that provided no new information about the dispute that mobilized militias and national media and made Southern Nevada the epicenter of federal land use disputes. “We don’t know why it took a year to find 44 pages,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said Wednesday.

The Review-Journal has filed several FOIA requests with the BLM as well, to find out how much money was wasted on the roundup — rooted in BLM grazing restrictions and the Bundy family’s refusal to pay grazing fees — and whether the BLM was adequately prepared to face armed resistance, among other questions that demand answers. To date, the BLM has not responded to the requests. Continue>>>
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April 17, 2015 12:51 PM

On April 13, 2015 the Honorable Mary Mikva of the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled in favor of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) in granting a motion to dismiss a suit alleging that the IHSA’s records were subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The court also dismissed claims requesting that a member school obtain and turnover records from the IHSA having nothing to do with that school. FOIA requires that governmental entities make their records public. As a private, voluntary not-for-profit association, the IHSA argued, and the court agreed, that IHSA is not a “public body” subject to the act.

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman noted that the IHSA will continue to go above and beyond its legal responsibilities when it comes to financial transparency. In addition to its legal obligations, the IHSA will also extend its practice of posting its independent audit and Annual Report on its website.

“The law was on our side in this situation,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “Our stance all along is that we have and will continue to follow the laws that are in place to govern 501(c)(3) organizations like the IHSA in Illinois.” Continue>>>
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April 16, 2015 1:19 PM

Congratulations! You were one of the biggest winners of the first big deadline for bill passage at the Nevada Legislature.

How, exactly? By retaining your ability to review government records, which are the work product of your tax dollars.

Legislation not declared exempt had to pass its committee of origin by Friday. Hundreds of bills died last week when they were rejected or ignored by lawmakers. Thankfully, among those fatalities were a handful of bills that would have greatly weakened public access to government documents and made it much easier for bureaucracies to avoid accountability. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:49 PM

A South Carolina State University board committee's recent meeting to approve an organizational structure for the institution was illegal, says Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association.

The university was nearing the March 13 deadline to hand in documents to the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges and an approved organizational structure was part of the package required by the accrediting agency.

Trustees failed to vote on it at a meeting March 10. Instead, they gave authority to the board's executive committee to tentatively approve the document. Continue>>>
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March 17, 2015 1:14 PM

Thursday was the first day in more than a month lawmakers could file bills, as the General Assembly has been on a six-week recess.

In advance of the session set to resume Tuesday, several items came in Thursday afternoon.
House Bill 42, sponsored by Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, removes the Freedom of Information Act exemption from the state’s two main universities.

The University of Delaware and Delaware State University currently are immune from certain types of FoIA requests, in accordance with the Delaware Code. Until last year, however, they were almost entirely immune to FoIA filings. Presented in May 2014 by Rep. Kowalko and with several of the same co-sponsors, a nearly identical version of House. Continue>>>
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March 17, 2015 12:53 PM

The University has yet to release dozens of documents related to the U.S. Department of Education’s ongoing Title IX investigation of the University, which were requested and paid for in part by The Michigan Daily over two months ago.

The Daily made a request to the University in December under the purview of the state’s Freedom of Information Act, and paid one of two $445 fees in January for the collection of documents related to sexual misconduct — including written complaints, e-mails from administrators and witness statements, among other documents.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, provides for the release of records by public institutions in the state of Michigan, including the University. However, after the documents are requested, FOIA does not specify a deadline by which an institution must produce the documents. Continue>>>
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March 13, 2015 11:27 AM

Newspapers were once the dominant force in dislodging documents and other records from reluctant federal government agencies, but a new crop of media players, advocacy groups and corporate interests now drive the release of information.

The Freedom of Information Act of 1966 was first envisioned as a tool for traditional media to seek documents, data and information they deemed important to public interest. It also was meant to allow ordinary Americans ( http://bit.ly/1DcaxxM ) to seek information from the federal government about themselves.

Nearly a half-century later, news organizations continue to paper federal agencies with written and electronic requests for records and other information under FOIA, a review of agency logs shows, though they are cash strapped and less likely to press their claims in court. Continue>>>
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March 12, 2015 12:36 PM

Last month was open records month, but that doesn't mean you can't still go and view them.

In Iowa, most government records are open to the public.

For city records, you can go to the city clerk. Continue>>>

March 11, 2015 11:31 AM

The Obama administration said Friday it will apply the legal provisions of the Freedom of Information Act to determine what parts of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s official emails when she was secretary of state will be released publicly from her private account. The law contains nine exemptions to censor or withhold parts of records.

The decision means that any finding by State Department reviewers that her private emails included classified or otherwise sensitive data would be indicated, even if the information is marked out. Under that law, reviewers need to specify which of the nine exceptions they’re citing to censor a passage.

Clinton’s extensive use of her own email account and private server has raised questions in the buildup to her expected presidential campaign about whether she adhered to the letter or spirit of accountability rules. Clinton has asked for the full ledger of her work-related correspondence to be made public, a process the State Department said could take months. The emails comprise 55,000 pages. Continue>>>
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