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 29, 2015 10:26 PM

Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration want the Clinton email scandal to go away. The liberal media may comply, but Judicial Watch is independent and is increasing its pressure with new court action.

On March 2, 2015, The New York Times reported then-Secretary Clinton used at least one non-“state.gov” email account to conduct official government business during her entire tenure as the secretary of state. It also was reported that Clinton stored these records on a non-U.S. government server at her home in Chappaqua, NY.

At least 18 lawsuits, 10 of which are active in federal court, and approximately 160 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests could be affected by Mrs. Clinton’s and her staff’s use of secret email accounts to conduct official government business. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:09 AM
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education notified parents this week that personal information about students was inadvertently sent to a reporter in February, education officials said.
 
District officials released an Excel file in response to a Freedom of Information Act inquiry from the Web site BuzzFeed, that included audited enrollment data about individual students and information about suspensions and expulsions.
 
Personal information was redacted, and the file was locked when it was sent, but education officials later realized that the file could be unlocked. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:08 AM
Of the 15 federal agencies that receive the most Freedom of Information Act requests –nine-tenths of the total government-wide – eight improved their compliance in the most recent annual report card by a watchdog group, but only two, Agriculture and SSA, scored as high as a B.
 
The report from the Center for Effective Government gave the top score to USDA at 85 percent, and SSA a B-minus at 82 percent, while only three others scored as a C or C-minus—Justice, EEOC and the National Archives and Records Administration. State fell at the bottom with a 37 percent grade and HHS also got an F at 57 percent. In the D-plus to D-minus range were DHS, DoT, Treasury, EPA, VA, Labor, DoD and SEC.
 
Grading was based on the establishment of clear agency rules guiding the release of information and communication with those requesting information; the quality and “user-friendliness” of an agency’s FOIA website; and the timely, complete processing of requests for information. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:06 AM
At a Wednesday afternoon hearing, Sussex County Circuit Court Chief Judge W. Allan Sharrett found that Waverly’s mayor and town clerk had knowingly violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act and failed to comply with a provision of the state’s open meetings law.
 
He ordered the town to pay legal fees, imposed suspended fines on town officials and more. C. Taylor Everett, a resident who had repeatedly asked the town to produce public documents and notify him of upcoming meetings, brought the legal challenge. A provision of state law requires public bodies such as town councils to provide notice of upcoming meetings to anyone who requests it. Continue...>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:05 AM
The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at increasing the public's access to government documents. 
 
The changes to the Freedom of Information Act, approved by voice vote, were sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md). 
 
The House unanimously passed a similar bill last Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported out its own FOIA reform bill earlier this year. The bills, similar in many ways, have each been endorsed by nearly 50 public interest groups, and both passed their respective chambers last Congress. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:04 AM
With the revelation that most members of Portsmouth City Council have not taken Sunshine Laws training to understand the need for all things to be done in open sessions so the public can know what is going on, comes word that most local boards are operated by people who have had the training.
 
 
“Just from working at the (Franklin County) Prosecutor’s Office previously, I was aware of the requirements,” Southern Ohio Port Authority Board Director Jason Kester said. “And then from going to the Economic Development Basic Course last year, it came up that it was very important to make sure your board understands that, especially for the Port Authority because we are a quasi-governmental - quasi-private interaction of two worlds, it was highly recommended that I have everybody attend that; go through some training; go through some port authority specific training; go through just some general Ohio Ethics Sunshine Law training.” Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:03 AM
Knoxville officials have begun offering training sessions for city board members after finding possible violations of the state’s sunshine laws.
 
The move stems from a public records request by the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1ycCqPj) in relation to a proposed $9 million digital radio system being discussed by the Knox County E-911 Board of Directors. The newspaper reports the city gave it copies of emails that show some board members discussed the contract in private.
 
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced on Feb. 12 that she had ordered Law Director Charles Swanson to review city appointees serving on boards and develop a training program for them. Continue>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:17 AM
New York State voters overwhelmingly disagree with the Cuomo administration’s policy of automatically deleting state workers’ emails after 90 days, according to a poll released Monday.
 
Eighty percent of voters said emails should be saved for a significantly longer period of time, according to the poll, which was conducted by Siena College. Only 16 percent supported the speedy email purges.
 
In Albany, the email policy has drawn loud criticism in recent weeks from government watchdog groups as well as some lawmakers, who have proposed legislation to stop the email purges. The policy has also reinforced Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s reputation for seeking to tightly control information, a defining trait of his administration. Continue>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:16 AM
 
Freedom-of-information advocates say the open records laws in Minnesota and North Dakota are strong but need updating to address ambiguities concerning digital records, such as audio, video, emails and texts, which government officials are using more and more.
 
“I think that North Dakota still has one of the finest open record and open meeting laws in the country,” said attorney Jack McDonald, who lobbies for the North Dakota Newspaper Association. But “there are a few glitches, here and there, that need to be worked out.”
 
McDonald said that in the coming years, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem plans to form a task force of police, city and county officials, as well as news people, to review the state’s open records law in light of the increasing prevalence of digital technology. Continue>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:14 AM
The Ohio Senate made the right decision last week when it announced plans to broadcast coming budget deliberations. It balked at the move last session, when the Ohio House opted to stream its Finance Committee hearings over the Ohio Channel (online at www.ohiochannel.org).
 
Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) offered a glimmer of hope back in January about the possibility of broadcasts. He, Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) made good on the issue during Sunshine Week, announcing a bipartisan agreement to live-stream hearings on the biennial budget bill, which is expected to hit the Senate in coming weeks.
 
"As we celebrate Sunshine Week, there is no better time than now to roll out this real-time access to state government," Oelslager said in a released statement. Still work to do... Continue>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:13 AM
At its Newsmakers forum held on March 17, Carolina Public Press hosted some of the state’s top open government advocates and reporters for a live interview and public question and answer forum about challenges to open government in North Carolina. Two dozen people attended the free and public forum, which was held at the Jackson County Public Library in Sylva.
 
The event also helped mark Sunshine Week, the annual nationwide celebration of access to public information and what it means for you and your community.
 
In North Carolina, the week is an opportunity for journalists, open government advocates, public officials and community members to discuss open government and its importance to a transparent and vibrant democracy. Continue>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:12 AM
What a terrible Sunshine Week.
 
Founded in 2002, Sunshine Week is celebrated each year in the interest of a simple philosophy: “Open government is good government.” Journalists, activists and supporters of government transparency use this week to commend the strides made for open government, criticize the backslides and lobby for more change.
 
In a country founded on the idea that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, who can argue with increased transparency? The only hope for an effective democracy is an educated citizenship and an open government. While sunshine laws, like the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act, are not a part of the U.S. Constitution, they are just as central to the health of our democracy. Continue>>>
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