FOI Advocate News Blog

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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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March 2, 2015 1:25 AM

S.C. Rep. Chris Corley maintains that a recently passed bill in the House would put unnecessary time constraints on government entities to process information requests.

Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt, however, said the time constraints can be overlooked because of a bigger compromise on the bill, which restricts inmates from filing Freedom of Information requests.

Corley, R-Graniteville, was the only member of the Aiken House Delegation to vote against bill H. 3191, or the Freedom of Information Act bill. Continue>>>
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March 2, 2015 1:22 AM

Honesty, decency and forthrightness are among the values that define South Dakotans. Another core value is a fundamental belief in the public’s right to know about their government. South Dakotans believe the public’s business should be conducted in public view.

That principle in government transparency is embedded in South Dakota’s open meetings laws, which date back more than a half century and direct state and local government boards on how they should conduct business in public.

A principle guiding our open meetings laws is that when at least a quorum of members of a government board is discussing official business, the state open meetings laws should be followed. In other words, among other things, an agenda of the meeting should be provided in advance of the meeting and the public should have the opportunity to witness the meeting. That principle applies whether the government board is meeting in person or by teleconference or video-conference. Continue>>>
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March 2, 2015 1:17 AM

The village of Oakley has released 13 pages of names and financial information in response to a Saginaw News request for the names of donors to the Oakley Police Department.

However, at least some of those listed, including Saginaw County 911, deny donating to the department.

The village of Oakley sent the documents, which identify roughly 150 entities, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request from The Saginaw News seeking the names, amounts and dates of donors to the police fund. Continue>>>
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March 2, 2015 1:14 AM

Representatives of the University of Connecticut Foundation made an impassioned argument at a legislative hearing Thursday that any law forcing them to open their records to the public — even if donors' name are excluded — would impede their efforts to raise money.

And it seemed from the response of the legislators on the higher-education committee that most — though not all — agreed with that argument.

Daniel Toscano, a member of the foundation board and a donor, said the legislation under consideration, which would make the foundation subject to the state Freedom of Information Act, "will most definitely have a chilling effect on the philanthropy that is essential to building and maintaining a top-notch flagship university. Continue>>>
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March 2, 2015 1:09 AM

Conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained documents earlier this month proving that several top aides for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were aware the American consulate in Benghazi was under attack more than three years ago. This includes Clinton’s then-chief of staff and top confidant, Cheryl Mills.

Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack: Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Judicial Watch is in the midst of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. State Department, the scope of which entails “any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to notes, updates, or reports, created in response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.” Continue>>>
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March 2, 2015 1:04 AM

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved S-337 to compel agencies to respond more quickly and openly to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The bill would establish a single website for making FOIA requests; direct agencies to make records available in an electronic format; reduce the number of exemptions agencies can use to withhold information from the public; clarify procedures for handling frequently requested documents and charging fees; establish a Chief FOIA Officers Council; and require agencies to prepare additional reports for the Congress on FOIA matters.

Presidential memoranda and Justice Department guidelines have directed agencies to provide more FOIA information to the public on a timely basis, but widespread dissatisfaction with delays and lack of openness continue. Continue>>>
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February 27, 2015 12:31 PM

Vermont's new open-meeting law asks too much of small-town technology, the head of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns says.

Some towns don't use email. And posting meeting agendas and minutes on a town website, as required under law, is a tall order, said VLCT executive director Steven Jeffrey.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns wants Vermont to relax its open-meeting law to allow more time to post documents online, and to exempt some town boards and commissions from enforcement "teeth" that were added to the law last year. Continue>>>
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February 27, 2015 12:27 PM

The public’s right to know about how executions take place in Texas – including current, controversial secret information regarding the lethal drugs used to administer the death sentence – would be dramatically strengthened under legislation filed on Wednesday, February 18, by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

House Bill 1587 by Canales would require the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide details about the names of the drugs used in the lethal injections, along with the identity of their manufacturers, the expiration dates of the deadly concoction, the results of laboratory tests performed on those ingredients, and pertinent information relating to the toxic substance.

“In Texas, we do not give the bureaucrats the absolute authority to decide what the public can and cannot know about what their government is doing,” said Canales. “When it comes to the death penalty, Texans will not allow state government to keep secrets about this drug, which wields the power of life and death.” Continue>>>
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February 27, 2015 12:24 PM

The National Security Agency has repeatedly stated that leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden about its surveillance programs have compromised national security and harmed American foreign policy – but Washington remains unwilling to say how.

When pressed on the issue, officials tend to offer little in the way of details, while attempts to force the government to disclose information have so far failed to turn up any significant information. Vice News recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the damage done by Snowden – as seen by the government through its own internal investigations – but even though 112 documents were released, nearly everything was redacted.

Outside of a few subheadings – some of which read “assessment,” and “compromised information,” as well as “recommendations” – virtually all text from the documents was redacted in order to "mitigate the harm caused to national security," reads a declaration signed by Aleysia Williams, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s FOIA department. Continue>>>
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February 27, 2015 12:21 PM

Many people are aware of the Freedom of Information Act, known by its acronym, FOIA. It’s the kind of thing that might be described as “government trade secrets, inside out.”

In essence, it means that you can get “private” information from the government by filing a request. Think the government has a file on you? Well, you can file and they will tell you if they do or don’t, or that “they don’t want to confirm or deny” the existence of such a file.

FOIA files can be very fascinating to read, and while sensitive information may be redacted, there’s always a certain excitement to reading things that are officially out of the public’s reach. (Think about any email sent to or by a government employee.) Continue>>>
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February 27, 2015 12:16 PM

Until his death last week, it had been a while since Cass Ballenger’s name appeared in Gazette headlines.

The ultimate straight-talking politician, Ballenger spent a stretch representing Gaston County in Washington and in that time made plenty of news. He had a way of saying what he thought that left listeners with no doubt about what he meant.

Ballenger lived in Hickory but he turned up regularly in Gaston County when he came home from D.C., often dropping by the newspaper office wearing his signature crumpled suit. He took it in stride when a Gazette writer once described him as dressed less like powerful lawmaker and more like Colombo, the detective from the hit TV series of the day. Continue>>>
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February 27, 2015 12:15 PM

The village of Oakley has again voted to release the names of reserve police officers.

In a 5-0 vote, with two people abstaining, the Village Council during a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 24, agreed to give out the names.

Oakley's attorney, Richard Hamilton, recommended that the village give up its fight to keep the names of those on its 100-member reserve force secret and disclose the names, essentially ending three outstanding lawsuits. Continue>>>
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