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

December 1, 2015 4:49 PM

The more than 27-year-old case file on the disappearance of Randy Leach, a Linwood high school honor student, must be thousands of pages.

But it's impossible to know because the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, who investigated the long-ago mystery, refuse to release the records even to Leach's parents, Harold and Alberta Leach.

Law enforcement agencies are permitted to do that under the Kansas Open Records Act. The state's police records disclosure law is unusual, and Kansas is one of the few states in the country that allows police to choose to keep all investigative records secret in perpetuity, even if there was a trial, or someone pleaded guilty, or the case is more than a generation old and there are no longer active leads. Continue...


December 1, 2015 4:45 PM

Lump sum payments from campaign and political action committees to consultants are blocking the public view of Texas campaign spending.

At the moment, the public is being asked to trust that these dollars have valid final destinations. That’s because they are simply reported, sometimes in six-figure amounts, as “consulting” or “consulting fees,” according to a recent San Antonio Express-News article.

Members of the Texas Ethics Commission showed some interest earlier this year in closing the reporting gaps, but the commission has been faced with significant pushback from consultants, who claim that disclosure would require giving away trade secrets. Continue...


December 1, 2015 4:39 PM

As 2015 winds to a close, we can look back on a year of success stories and failures when it comes to transparency in government.

At the start of the year, the federal government began releasing its enterprise data inventories — comprehensive indexes of the data sets it collects — to the public. The move, which came in response to a Sunlight Foundation Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, was a major victory for government transparency.

By making the indexes publicly available, we’ll have a better picture of what data and information the federal government collects and maintains, and it opens the door for further investigation and analysis by Congress, journalists and citizens alike. Continue...


December 1, 2015 4:34 PM

New York's regional council process that has awarded nearly $3 billion since 2011 for economic development lacks transparency and doesn’t adequately report on the outcome of various projects, according to a new report.

The report from the Citizens Budget Commission concluded that state hasn’t provided enough details to properly evaluate whether the 10 regional councils are creating jobs with the money doled out by the state.

“The public deserves to know what impact the REDC’s activities are having,” said Carol Kellermann, the president of the business-backed group. “The performance of funded projects should be measured against stated goals, and the results should be made public. That has not yet been happening sufficiently.” Continue...


December 1, 2015 4:31 PM

Thirteen days ago, lawmakers in the state House passed a bill to shield a police officer’s name when a firearm is discharged or he uses force while on duty — without defining what the “use of force” might include — unless the officer is charged with a crime.

Under the bill, the name of a charged officer could be released only if the release of the officer’s name could not “reasonably be expected to create a risk of harm to the person or property of the law enforcement officer” or to the person or property of a family member of the officer.

The measure, House Bill 1538, passed Nov. 17, 162-38. The 115 Republicans who voted yes included all 11 House members representing Lancaster County. They were joined by 47 Democrats. Four Republicans and 34 Democrats, (including state Rep. Mike Sturla of Lancaster, voted no.

The worry that propelled HB 1538 is understandable. Continue...


November 30, 2015 6:19 PM

The Orland Police Department in Illinois has settled a lawsuit, paying out $12,000 for violating and not responding to Freedom of Information Act requests by local watchdogs.

Also, the Orland Park Public Library settled a lawsuit for $55,000 for the same reason.

The police department settled their lawsuit in October 2015, the public library settled their lawsuit in March 2015. Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan filed both lawsuits. Continue...


November 30, 2015 6:12 PM

Nevada's Public Employees Retirement System, with more than $34 billion in assets, is overseen by a panel of seven public-sector workers appointed by the governor.

But as a recent nationwide report from the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity pointed out, Nevada taxpayers don't know much about the individuals charged with managing the state retirement system for nearly all state and local government employees.

The same is true for appointees to other boards and commissions, from the state Board of Transportation to the Board of Medical Examiners to the Board of Education. Continue...


November 30, 2015 5:10 PM

State law might say some government records must be disclosed, but that's not the way many Virginia officials see things.

A statewide test by 13 newspapers to see what happens when Virginians ask about information that state law says officials must disclose shows the state's four-decade-old Freedom of Information Act is widely disregarded.

More than half of the more than three dozen police or sheriff's departments included in the test refused to release any information about felony incidents, even though the act says those are "records required to be released." Continue...


November 30, 2015 5:06 PM

In the dim light of a smartphone, the lettering on the side of the 10-odd white storage boxes is faintly legible: "Confidential Medical Information. Medical Personnel Only." A few feet away, in this darkened corner of a storage warehouse on East Main Street, another box is labeled "Unpaid Parking Tickets." There are long cabinets with flat drawers — the label on one reads "TVA Project." Two mattresses sprawl incongruously nearby.

In the darkness, Chattanooga City Attorney Wade Hinton squats down to examine the contents of yet another box, getting a firsthand look at the Herculean task he is undertaking — deciding what to do with decades worth of city government documents, and creating a policy to determine what should be done with new documents — both paper and electronic.

Hinton concedes that no one knows exactly how many boxes or cabinets or closets or attics or basements full of documents exist across all city departments. The general policy for decades has been "keep everything," he told City Council members Tuesday evening as he explained his proposal. One of his first tasks is to get each department to perform a survey to determine what it is storing now. Continue...

November 30, 2015 4:59 PM

Under a new bill, Massachusetts would join 47 other states that allow people to recoup legal fees after successfully suing for access to public records.

The legislature’s first move in more than 40 years to update the Massachusetts public records law is getting mixed reviews from some government transparency advocates.

“The House did a good thing by getting the ball rolling on public records reform, and there is a lot of room for the Senate to take this first step and put together a bill that is much stronger in terms of transparency and open government,” said Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Continue...


November 25, 2015 10:54 AM

Brian Davison, a parent in Loudoun County, may be a bit of a gadfly. But he's on point with his insistence that parents have more information about the performance of their public schools.

He filed dozens of requests under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act seeking access to data collected as part of the commonwealth's Standards of Learning testing program. His efforts rebuffed, Mr. Davison availed himself of the courts, filing suit for the records.  Continue...


November 25, 2015 10:43 AM

At the regular Natrona County Commission meeting last week, Commissioner Steve Schlager accused the commission’s chairman and vice chairman of withholding information and making decisions outside of regular sessions.

Schlager told the other commissioners he was concerned about the lack of communication. He said when he first came on the commission in January, he asked for background records on topics before the county, but Commission Chairman Forrest Chadwick would not give them to him.  Continue...


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