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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August 15, 2017 4:59 PM

The latest news in Colorado transparency from NFOIC member Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC). Continue...

August 14, 2017 2:43 PM
As the public, press and researchers have long requested, the trial court in Washington, D.C., has begun making court files available online. Called "eAccess" on the court home page, the new system replaces the previous Court Cases Online portal that included for each case only a list of events (called the "docket"). The new system adds access to case documents such as complaints, motions, briefs, opinions and orders.
 
Of 22 types of D.C. cases, dockets are now available in all, and records filed after last Friday, August 11, in eight. Those include major areas such as civil and criminal, as well as specialized courts such as landlord and tenant, small claims, and some probate and tax cases. No information is provided on a schedule for adding earlier records and the remaining case types.
 
Records filed earlier can be viewed at terminals and printed out in the Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave., N.W., Washington, DC. Continue...
August 9, 2017 11:27 AM
TOPEKA – (August 8, 2017) – Free training sessions on Kansas open government laws will be offered at five locations across the state in the coming weeks, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government announced today.
 
“Open access to the functions of government is important to self-government,” Schmidt said. “As our office investigates complaints of violations of open government laws, most often we find the violations were inadvertent and can be avoided through better education. I encourage public officials, staff, members of the media and the public to participate in these training sessions to learn more about how these laws work.” 
 
The schedule for the sessions is as follows: 
 
Friday, September 8          9 a.m. – Noon
                                          Leavenworth City Hall, City Commission Room, 100 N. 5th St., Leavenworth
 
Monday, September 11     1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
                                          Manhattan Public Library Auditorium, 629 Poyntz Ave., Manhattan
 
Tuesday, September 12     1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
                                          Hays Public Library Auditorium, 1205 Main St., Hays
 
Thursday, September 14   1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
                                          Bradford Memorial Library, 611 S. Washington St., El Dorado
 
Friday, October 6              9 a.m. – Noon 
                                         Memorial Hall Auditorium, 120 SW 10th Ave., Topeka
 
These seminars are free and open to the public. Space at each location is limited, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants can register on the Kansas Attorney General’s website, www.ag.ks.gov/open-gov, or by calling (785) 296-2215. 
 
The training about the Kansas Open Records Act and the Kansas Open Meetings Act will be conducted by attorneys in Schmidt’s office who have experience in open government laws and who are charged by law with training and enforcement of them. Panelists will include Kansas Sunshine Coalition members, local government officials and media representatives. 
August 8, 2017 4:45 PM

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) recently introduced legislation - The Private Prison Information Act of 2017 – that would ensure that non-federal prisons are held to the same standard of information sharing and record keeping as federal detention facilities. Increasing transparency and accountability, S. 1728, extends the obligation to respond to Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests on the federal contracting agencies using existing FOIA procedures. Private prison companies that receive federal funding currently claim they are exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests due to a loophole in the current law.  The legislation continues to allow the government to protect confidential, privileged, and sensitive information from public disclosure under existing exemptions and exclusions. Continue...

July 26, 2017 1:51 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Lara Dieringer
573.882.4856 · ldieringer@nfoic.org

Media of Nebraska becomes NFOIC’s newest state FOI alliance

COLUMBIA, Mo. (July 26, 2017) – Media of Nebraska, a 40-year-old non-profit coalition of print and electronic news organizations operating in Nebraska has become the newest member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC). Forty-five states and the District of Columbia make up NFOIC whose mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings.

Dan Bevarly, NFOIC’s executive director, emphasized the importance of state FOI coalitions that work on behalf of their residents to ensure open and transparent government. “The real battle over First Amendment rights and accessible government is at the state and local levels,” said Bevarly. “NFOIC state affiliates are on the front line daily to help remove obstacles at public institutions that block or hinder people from obtaining information that is rightfully theirs.”

Media of Nebraska’s president, Mike Reilly said his organization members are vigilant to the actions of government when it comes to public access to information. “Forty years has seen many changes and challenges to traditional journalism, and in the relationship between government and citizens,” said Reilly who is also the Vice President for News for BH Media Group. “Media of Nebraska members are serious about their role as public watchdogs, especially when it comes to monitoring state and local governments in the digital age.”

The state coalitions are nonprofits that work together and collaborate over a variety of challenges including monitoring their state legislatures, training and educating journalists and attorneys in their state open government laws, offering hotlines to answer questions and helping citizens petition for public records. Learn more about NFOIC and its state members at www.nfoic.org/members.

 

About NFOIC:  NFOIC is a nonpartisan alliance of state & regional affiliates promoting collaboration, education & advocacy for open government, transparency & freedom of information. Affiliate members include citizen-driven nonprofit freedom of information organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys.

July 19, 2017 2:38 PM
In an unusual 1900-word story beginning on the Metro section front page and continuing almost a full page inside, Washington Post reporters Mandy McLaren and Emma Brown on Saturday (July 15) sketched a little known education program, under a (print) headline “the opacity of school choice” and highlighted in the opening text the gaps in public information about the schools involved:
  • Congress dedicates $15 million a year to a program that helps low-income D.C. students pay tuition at private schools, but it’s impossible for taxpayers to find out where their money goes: The administrator of the D.C. voucher program refuses to say how many students attend each school or how many public dollars they receive. It’s also not clear how students are performing in each school. When Congress created the program in 2004, it did not require individual private schools to disclose anything about student performance. And private schools can continue receiving voucher dollars no matter how poorly their students fare.
July 19, 2017 2:07 PM

Nominate your favorite advocate for open and transparent government! 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.”

Formal induction occurs at the 2017 FOI Summit.

July 19, 2017 2:01 PM

Each year, the FOI Summit features the exchange of ideas, experiences and strategies about the latest issues and trends surrounding freedom of information laws, policies and practices at the state and local levels across the U.S. The summit delivers two days of panel discussions, presentations, and group interaction featuring experts, practitioners and champions of transparency and open government. Join us October 13 - 14th in Nashville, Tennessee! More information here.

July 10, 2017 4:28 PM
A new Pennsylvania law exempts police audio and video recordings from the state’s Right-to-Know Law, leaving the release of those records largely to the discretion of police.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill that also clears legal hurdles that kept police departments from using body cameras, likely expanding their use greatly.
 
The legislation was supported by police groups. Lawmakers passed it overwhelmingly. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed it, warning it’ll keep police videos largely out of public view. Continue...
July 10, 2017 4:07 PM
This weekend in Biloxi, Miss., the Louisiana Press Association bestowed its highest honor, the Freedom of Information Award, on The Independent for its investigative work into the shenanigans of Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope, who is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 25 on seven felony counts of malfeasance in office and perjury and is facing an effort to recall him in a special election. Read the latest on the never-ending saga of his administration here. Continue...
July 10, 2017 3:57 PM
The agency that has been the main target of efforts to fire feds faster dismissed more than 500 employees this year — even before a new accountability law took effect.
 
Since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shamed itself in 2014 with a scandal over the coverup of long patient wait times, Capitol Hill politicians have demanded that the agency accelerate sacking — as if that were the main measure of good personnel administration. Department leaders joined the call and perpetuated the impression that life would be better if only more derelicts could be dumped.
 
Now we know that VA has dumped plenty. Continue...
July 10, 2017 3:39 PM
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the D.C. Council’s auditor are stalemated in a battle of wills over release of a report on police use of special equipment, especially at 12th and L Streets and Franklin Square Park, N.W., during the January 20, 2017, Inauguration protests. Critics charge such “riot gear” is used more to terrify the public than protect officers and keep the peace.
 
The Auditor reported last week (July 3) that it had recommended in April that police provide a public report required by law when riot gear is used, but Chief Peter Newsham  has declined, arguing the law doesn’t apply.  
 
The requirement has been law since 2005 when the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee (chaired then by Kathy Patterson, now the D.C. Auditor) wrote, and the Council passed, the First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act.  Police action during the early Bush years had included many tactics questioned by experts and public witnesses in Council hearings including over-use of riot gear and pepper spray, mass arrests without warnings, confinement of large groups in harsh conditions, undercover surveillance of protesters’ planning, and more. Continue...
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