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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November 12, 2013 8:42 AM

From The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: TUPELO – The Daily Journal has requested an advisory opinion from the Mississippi Ethics Commission after the city of Tupelo denied an open records request for emails between Mayor Jason Shelton and former city Development Services Director BJ Teal.

Tupelo City Attorney Ben Logan recently notified the Daily Journal of a denial of the newspaper’s request to release an email between Shelton and Teal sent between Oct. 23-26. State law provides for an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission as a next step when a public records request is denied.

Visit The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal for more.

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October 16, 2013 11:28 AM

From World: Legal watchdog Judicial Watch has filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) demanding the U.S. Department of Defense turn over all records of communications between Pentagon officials and controversial anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein.

Weinstein is the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an organization that aggressively seeks to curtail the rights of Christians in the military. Religious liberty advocates are concerned that Weinstein’s unfettered access to the Pentagon’s most senior leadership, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, unduly influenced military policies and threatens the freedom of religious expression.

Visit World for more.

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October 16, 2013 11:01 AM

From Cleveland.com: OLMSTED FALLS, Ohio — Mayor Robert Blomquist has filed a public records request against Councilwoman at Large Ann Marie Donegan. He is seeking emails related to a health fair for senior citizens she organized with another council member.

To date, Donegan has not provided the requested emails, and Blomquist said he will seek further legal action.

Visit Cleveland.com for more.

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September 27, 2013 10:45 AM

From NFOIC:  A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

YH-R, TV stations earn Washington open government award

image of Access keyThe Washington Coalition for Open Government on Thursday presented the Yakima Herald-Republic and three local television stations with the organization’s Key Award for contributions in promoting open government. The award was given for the newspaper’s and television stations’ joint effort in June to keep open court hearings on new evidence in a widely discussed triple-homicide case that prosecutors had sought to close to the public.

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Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments over Chicago’s red light program, FOIA and legal malpractice matters

The Illinois Supreme Court this week agreed to hear arguments in more than a dozen cases. ... The justices also agreed to hear a pair of cases challenging dismissals of actions brought under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Those cases are Warren Garlick v. Lisa Madigan and Larry Nelson, et al. v The County of Kendall.

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LSU board hit with penalty in public records case

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A Baton Rouge judge has ordered the LSU Board of Supervisors to pay thousands in penalties to two newspapers, after refusing to provide them with presidential search records. Judge Janice Clark applied the maximum $100 per day penalty, along with a requirement that LSU reimburse the newspapers for attorneys' fees and court costs.

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Beaver county (PA) stalls on public records request despite legal ruling

BEAVER, Pennsylvania — Beaver County hasn't provided documents to a local newspaper on the initial five bidders for a nursing home, despite a ruling from the state's Office of Open Records. Assistant County Solicitor Andrea Cantelmi said Wednesday that no decision has been made on either providing the information or appealing the decision, The Beaver County Times reported.

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Iowa free press and open government events scheduled for Oct. 3

Members of the public, the media, local and state government and University of Iowa officials will participate in a day of free press and open government events Oct. 3. At 10 a.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol there will be a meeting of the new Iowa Public Information Board.

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Opinion: Another week, another dustup over public records issues in Ohio

Columbus -- Not too long after I started covering the Statehouse six years ago, I began keeping tabs on Ohio's Tax Credit Authority. Each month, I look over the panel's agenda, searching for companies of local interest. Wherever one from Youngstown or Defiance or Cambridge or Wooster or other communities is up for a tax break, I try to attend. It's always a challenge.

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New York governor has work to do to keep transparency promise

As he prepares to seek re-election next year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo can point to a number of campaign promises kept: Passage of on-time budgets, approval of same-sex marriage and a revised tax code among them. What he cannot point to is his pledge to create “the most transparent and accountable (state government) in history.” On that front, the governor and his administration have much work to do.

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Bayonne must pay attorney fees in dispute over New Jersey OPRA requests

The city of Bayonne has been ordered to pay attorney fees after a state agency ruled that the city unlawfully denied a series of Open Public Records Act requests. "Bayonne has been difficult," said John Paff, 56, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Parties open government advocacy project, whose OPRA requests had been initially denied. "They seem to almost have a problem with dealing with record requests. I asked for two things and made two separate requests.

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Florida Public Defender under fire: New emails revealed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News is digging through thousands of emails from Jacksonville's embattled Public Defender, Matt Shirk. Shirk became the subject of a special prosecutor's probe after independent investigations by Action News and the Florida Times-Union revealed possible violations of public records laws.

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Editorial: Keeping the spirit of FOIA strong (MI)

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act will be 40 years old in 2016. That would seem long enough to assure that it is well understood and equally well followed by the public officials who entertain requests to review public records from citizens and the media. Yet, exactly how the FOIA is followed can vary wildly from state department to state department. LSJ state government reporter Kristen Daum exposed the contrasts in special reports this summer.

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August 23, 2013 10:47 AM

From Miami Herald:  IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Department of Justice obtained temporary legal relief Tuesday to block the release of emails to and from an Iowa sheriff who serves on a federal board charged with building a high-speed broadband network for emergency responders.

Department lawyers requested an injunction in federal court in Des Moines to prevent Iowa's Story County from releasing Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald's emails to the news outlet Politico on Tuesday. In a batch of court filings, they argued the release could "seriously impede" plans for a single, interoperable network designed to resolve the communications problems that hampered responses to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks and other disasters.

Fitzgerald was appointed last year to serve on the board of FirstNet, which was created by Congress to develop and deploy the network and is housed in the Department of Commerce. ...

Politico asked Story County to release emails related to FirstNet that Fitzgerald sent and received through his county email.

U.S. District Judge James Gritzner approved a temporary restraining order Tuesday afternoon that blocks the records' release for 14 days.

Get the rest >>

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August 15, 2013 9:49 AM

From WashingtonPost.com:  A federal judge said Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency may have tried to evade a Freedom of Information Act request and added that “numerous inconsistencies” in the agency’s court filings “undermine confidence in their truthfulness.”

As a result, Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation, which filed the request for e-mails of current and former top EPA officials, the right to question them in person and in writing.

“The possibility that unsearched personal email accounts may have been used for official business raises the possibility that leaders in the EPA may have purposefully attempted to skirt disclosure under the FOIA,” Lamberth wrote.

Get the rest here.

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July 18, 2013 9:31 AM

From inewsource:  In the midst of an inewsource investigation and with state and federal agencies eyeing its practices, the North County Transit District is considering a policy change that would direct employees to delete certain emails after 60 days.

NCTD currently keeps emails, which often are important documentation of official public business, for two years. The NCTD board is scheduled to vote on the matter Thursday, and it comes at a key point in the agency’s accountability.

[...]

inewsource has submitted dozens of CPRAs over the course of the last six months to obtain NCTD documents — some of which were emails sent or received by staff members and board members. By doing so, inewsource was able to shed light on the SPRINTER shutdown, high staff turnover, severance agreements, headhunter fees, audits, and a number of other issues that have made up the bulk of the more than 20 stories since February.

This new policy would change all of that.

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July 15, 2013 1:22 PM

From The Asbury Park Press:  Township Public Library Director Susan O’Neal zipped off a quick email to township government critic and library supporter Linda Baum on April 18, suggesting that she request a copy of the audio recording from the library meeting the prior night.

The tape, she assured, would show that two library trustees claimed the library wasn’t needed and another trustee making accusations back.

“Pretty hot stuff, which reinforces my opinion that ‘they’ are not through dismantling the MTPL,” she wrote after proclaiming that Baum missed “major fireworks.”

Nearly three months later, the exchanges catching the public’s attention are not between library trustees, but the emails, nearly 1½ year’s worth, between O’Neal and Baum.

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June 28, 2013 12:47 PM

A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

 

Acting ND University System chancellor says NDSU president emails are not gone for good

BISMARCK, North Dakota — More than 45,000 emails reportedly deleted from the email account of North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani at the time of a state open records request are not gone for good, the interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System says. ... The emails are the subject of a state investigation into whether NDSU violated open records laws by deleting emails from Bresciani's inbox that might have been subject to a legislative public records request. The request came during months of controversy over the alleged overbearing leadership style of then-Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, whose contract has since been bought out by the state Board of Higher Education.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

ACLU files appeal in request for city SWAT records

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed an appeal in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court seeking records from the Pittsburgh police department. According to the filing, the ACLU submitted a request under the state Right to Know Law seeking records from the city's SWAT team and on acquisition of "cutting-edge weapons technology."

Visit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the rest.

Jacksonville expects fast end to Sunshine lawsuit, general counsel says

A Times-Union lawsuit that argues Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown broke the state’s Sunshine Law could be resolved by late July or August, the city’s top lawyer told a City Council committee Thursday. ... The suit says the pension proposal was the result of illegal secret negotiations. Times-Union Editor Frank Denton filed the suit because state law requires Sunshine cases to be brought by a Florida resident.

Visit The Florida Times-Union for the rest.

Northampton Community College locks down email addresses after records ruling

Northampton Community College will take steps to keep its students' email addresses private after an open records decision required administrators to provide the information to a Bucks County activist. The idea their email addresses could be released for commercial or political purposes outraged some students, who wrote to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in an effort to influence its decision, said Helene Whitaker, the school's vice president for administrative affairs.

Visit The Morning Call for the rest.

Governor says he supports open records, meetings, but does not want state bearing the costs

SACRAMENTO, California — Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that he is committed to keeping government transparent but wants to do so without costing the state money. Brown made his first public comments about the California Public Records Act after lawmakers backtracked on a bill that would have made it optional, instead of mandatory, for local governments to comply with document requests.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Judge orders records in Lloyd case to be kept from public

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — A day after his co-counsel, Michael Fee, issued an email rant at the media for "a flood of rumors, misinformation and false reports," defense attorney Jamie Sultan made a 15-minute visit to their client's home Tuesday, driving away without a word to the two dozen reporters camped outside the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Meanwhile, five miles away at the Attleboro District Courthouse, clerk magistrate Mark E. Sturdy issued a statement saying that all records handled by his office that relate to the investigation into the homicide of Odin Lloyd have been impounded by court order.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

June 19, 2013 8:49 AM

From The Washington Post:  After the Associated Press reported this month that some Obama Cabinet officials have used alternative e-mail accounts in addition to government addresses to conduct federal business, The Washington Post talked with the National Archives and Records Administration about it and what’s new in the world of electronic recordkeeping.

Paul M. Wester Jr. is chief records officer for the archives agency and the first person to hold the job, which was created in 2011. He issues policy and guidance to federal agencies on which records they must keep and for how long, with an emphasis on electronic records, including the vast trove of e-mail created by federal officials.

  

June 6, 2013 10:55 AM

From The Columbus Dispatch:  Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees are using secret government email accounts to conduct official business, a practice that complicates agencies’ legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails under public-records requests and congressional inquiries.

White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the practice yesterday and said it made eminent sense for cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to have what he called alternative email accounts that wouldn’t fill with unwanted messages. Carney said all their email accounts, public and otherwise, were subject to congressional oversight and requests by citizens under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

“There’s nothing secret,” Carney said.

[...]

... The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.

 

June 4, 2013 9:09 AM

From The Washington Times:  Richard Windsor never existed at the EPA, but the agency awarded the fictional staffer’s email account certificates proving he had mastered all of the agency’s technology training — including declaring him a “scholar of ethical behavior,” according to documents disclosed late last week.

Windsor.Richard@epa.gov was the controversial email alias used by former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, who resigned earlier this year amid questions about whether her agency was complying with open-records laws.

Visit The Washington Times for the rest.

 

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