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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May 21, 2015 9:47 AM

AUSTIN — Texans are likely to get greater access to campus police records and public meetings online.

But after a group secretly taped lawmakers in Austin, some are wary of legislation that could make it harder to record audio without the consent of all recorded.

A variety of bills still in play in the final days of the legislative session will affect government transparency, and so far, major legislative efforts are falling on the side of open government.  Continue>>>

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May 21, 2015 9:24 AM

Virginia won't be adding criminal penalties to its Freedom of Information Act any time soon.

The state's FOIA Council shot that proposal down Wednesday afternoon without even needing to send it to a subcommittee for study.

House Bill 2223, from Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, would have made the deliberate refusal to release public information a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The bill passed the House of Delegates earlier this year on a nearly unanimous vote, but the state Senate sent it to the FOIA Council – an appointed group that focuses on Virginia's open records and meetings laws – for further study.  Continue>>>

May 21, 2015 9:09 AM

Suffolk, Va. – A review of thousands of police replies to citizens seeking public records shows most Hampton Roads departments follow the law, even if they only release the minimum required. However, NewsChannel 3 found dozens of instances where citizens were improperly denied records, where police cited the wrong codes and exemptions, or where authorities failed to cite the specific reasons they were withholding documents.

Suffolk police, for example, wrote dozens of denials saying requests involved “current investigative information or material pending a court hearing.” That phrase is not found anywhere in the act’s exemptions. Suffolk usually followed that phrase by citing a code section — 2.2-3706 (A) — which is the entire police-records section of FOIA. The law says police must cite a specific exemption.

NewsChannel 3 provided the responses to Megan Rhyne, the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. She said Suffolk’s responses were overly broad, and used cut-and-paste, form-letter language that didn’t serve citizens.  Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 12:51 PM

Government agencies could face a new authority for improperly withholding public records in the face of a Freedom of Information Act request.

But at the same time, government agencies could also strike back at people who make overly burdensome requests for documents.  Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 12:48 PM

In 2004, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 59, one of the most far-reaching government openness laws in the nation. Its premise was that government agencies, when facing requests for official records, should err on the side of disclosure, not secrecy. The law requires laws to “be broadly interpreted to further the people’s right to access government information,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office noted.

If there is a more ignored state law than Proposition 59, we are unaware of it. Recent Union-Tribune Watchdog coverage has shown state agencies obstructing attempts to get basic public information about still-unfolding scandals. Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 10:24 AM
 
During former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, her political staff personally reviewed and negotiated the release of public records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — and in some cases blocked documents' release, according to The Wall Street Journal.
 
A Journal investigation found there existed a culture of "delay and inefficiency" at the State Department.
 
Clinton’s disclosure of public records has made headlines since the revelation earlier this year that as secretary of state she exclusively used a private account and server housed in her New York home to conduct State Department business. Continue>>>
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May 20, 2015 10:13 AM

U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday released documents it said were recovered during the 2011 raid on the compound in Pakistan where US forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. 

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that the release of the documents followed a "rigorous" review by US government agencies and "aligns with the president's call for increased transparency consistent with national security prerogatives." Continue>>>

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May 20, 2015 9:56 AM

Cameras mounted inside patrol cars captured every moment.

With their guns drawn, Gardena police officers screamed instructions at three men on the sidewalk. The officers warned them to keep their hands above their heads, mistakenly believing that they had been involved in a robbery.

Exactly what happened next is in dispute, but what is undisputed is that the men were unarmed when police opened fire, killing one and seriously wounding another.  Continue>>>

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May 14, 2015 2:38 PM

Senators reached a deal Wednesday to move forward on President Barack Obama's trade agenda only one day after Democrats embarrassed him by blocking it.

Lawmakers said roughly a dozen Senate Democrats agreed to let full-blown debate begin after both parties' leaders consented to tweak the package that failed on a procedural vote Tuesday. Those Democrats' votes were the difference between blocking the agenda and letting it move ahead.

The breakthrough doesn't assure Obama of receiving "fast track" negotiating authority, which would let him send to Congress trade proposals it can kill or ratify, but not amend. That's still subject to weeks or months of Senate and House debates, amendments and votes. Continue>>>
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May 14, 2015 2:30 PM

Unresponsive democratic governments fail.

One deadly feature of such governments is a lack of transparency. When leaders decided citizens didn’t need to know about the workings of government, citizens lost a lens to determine how responsive government was, often this created mistrust, which led to anger and eventually, rebellion.

I was heartened when police body-worn camera bills were proposed in the S.C. legislature — it was a direct check on the power of the state’s executive branch by the legislature. Continue>>>
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May 14, 2015 2:25 PM

The state Freedom of Information Commission has ruled that State Police must release personal documents seized from Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza's home during the investigation of the December 2012 rampage that left 20 children and six educators dead.

The agency ruled Wednesday in favor of the Hartford Courant (http://cour.at/1huZAxM ).

Efforts by the Courant to obtain the documents since January 2014 have been blocked by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Continue>>>
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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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