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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June 29, 2015 10:48 AM

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information had reason to celebrate at its annual meeting this month. It is the 60th anniversary of the group’s founding by Connecticut journalists seeking to protect the public’s right to know, a right not always appreciated or understood by the public, or by some public servants at every level of government who prefer to perform many of their functions away from the prying eyes of the taxpayer.

Also this year the group campaigned successfully to restore access to police arrest records lost in a state Supreme Court decision. Recognizing police could use the decision to keep the public in the dark about the circumstances surrounding arrests, the court itself recommended that the legislature explore remedial action.  Continue>>>

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June 29, 2015 10:40 AM

On the eve of the final vote on the 2016 Budget Support Act, the D.C. Open Government Coalition, the D.C. Professional Chapter of SPJ, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Office of Open Government, the ACLU of the National Capital Area and the D.C. Police Union jointly chastized Mayor Muriel E. Bowser for attempting to coerce the D.C. Council to prevent the public from gaining access to police body-worn camera videos.

  Mayor Muriel Bowser, in April, proposed outfitting every patrol officer with a body-worn camera to record interactions with the public. She announced the expansion at her State of the District address, claiming “[a]ccountability is embedded, and will be embedded in everything this administration does.” Continue>>>

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June 29, 2015 10:35 AM

After last year's debacle involving the Hartford-based Jumoke Academy charter school operation, many legislators arrived at the Capitol this year on a mission to improve the control and regulation of charter schools. A new law, passed with overwhelming support in the General Assembly but not yet signed by the governor, is designed to make charter schools and the charter management organizations that oversee them more accountable and transparent.

No one seems to dispute that the state's new charter accountability provisions — including anti-nepotism rules, background checks, and other measures — are a positive step forward when it comes to making the publicly-funded but independently-run schools more accountable.  Continue>>>

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June 26, 2015 1:29 PM

In a 6-3 opinion with profound reach on the state's open government laws, the Texas Supreme Court on Friday decided that Greater Houston Partnership doesn't have to open its check registers, even though it receives funds from the city of Houston.

The case stemmed from a 2007 request by Jim Jenkins of Montgomery County, who wanted to see how GHP spends the city's money. GHP, the region's major economic development group, argued that it wasn't a governmental body for the purposes of the Texas Public Information Act, and eventually sued to block disclosure of its finances.  Continue>>>

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June 26, 2015 9:46 AM

BRIDGEPORT — If elected City Council members want information from Mayor Bill Finch’s administration, they can always do what John and Jane Q Public does — file a Freedom of Information request and get in line.

That can mean waiting weeks and sometimes months for the data.

That was one of the recommendations City Attorney Mark Anastasi made in a four-page response to renewed efforts by Councilman Enrique Torres, R-130, to try and force agency heads to be more responsive to individual council member requests.  Continue>>>

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June 25, 2015 12:40 PM

A judge in Atlantic County has just held that public agencies cannot sue records requestors for declarations that the records sought are not subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). The court affirmed that only the requestor can sue under OPRA and awarded attorney’s fees to the defendant-requestor!

Click HERE to see the opinion and order in the case, Township of Hamilton v. Scheeler et al.  Continue>>>

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June 25, 2015 10:13 AM

A top official at a controversial U.S. export finance agency deleted text messages sent within days of the 2014 midterm elections after a watchdog group filed an open records request for the messages, the agency admitted recently.

The watchdog group, Cause of Action, said the deletion amounts to “unlawful destruction of federal records” in a legal complaint filed on Wednesday.  Continue>>>

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June 25, 2015 9:14 AM

Tim Draper wants to make California county governments more transparent — and the venture capitalist said Wednesday that he will spend up to $500,000 to make it happen.

Draper’s nonprofit, Innovate Your State, will provide a year’s subscription to the first California counties that subscribe to OpenGov, a Redwood City startup that creates visualizations of financial data and provides analysis software for local governments. A breakdown of each department’s budget shows up on OpenGov, making it easier for the public to look in on financial priorities. Draper estimates that a year of OpenGov will cost between $10,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the county.  Continue>>>

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June 24, 2015 3:02 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Daniel Bevarly

(239) 823-1811 · dbevarly@nfoic.org

 

Knight FOI fund helps bring settlement in Florida Governor Lawsuit 

 

COLUMBIA, Mo. (June 24, 2015) – The Associated Press reported that Florida Governor Rick Scott and his Cabinet are settling a lawsuit* filed by media organizations and others over the firing of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey.

The lawsuit was filed by St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner, Citizens for Sunshine and nine media organizations including the Florida First Amendment Foundation and the Associated Press.  To help with litigation costs, Mr. Weidner applied for and received an FOI grant from the National Freedom of information Coalition (NFOIC). NFOIC offers litigation grants to qualified applicants to pursue important open government cases.  The fund is made possible through a generous donation from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to NFOIC, the fund’s administrator.

The fund is aimed at covering the costs of bringing litigation, which would include up-front costs such as court costs, filing fees, depositions and related expenses. Recipients are expected to reimburse the fund for at least the full value of the grant when they are able to recover those costs as part of the resolution of the case for which grant funding was used.

Applicants may include individuals, organizations (including NFOIC member organizations), journalists, attorneys, news organizations, or any citizen needing support for a meritorious open government case. Applications submitted either directly to NFOIC or through a state FOI group will be forwarded to the NFOIC Litigation Committee. This year, NFOIC has received seven (7) grant applications.

 

* The lawsuit contended that Governor Scott and Cabinet members sidestepped the state’s Sunshine Law in the way they handled Bailey’s dismissal last year. The groups that sued Scott asserted that the firing should have been voted on during a public meeting, but instead the firing and the search for his replacement were handled behind the scenes through aides. After the two sides held closed mediation sessions, an agreement was reached. (Source: Associated Press)

June 24, 2015 2:04 PM

The Chicago Tribune sued the city of Chicago on Wednesday in a dispute over the news organization's public records request for emails from the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, said the Tribune sought 25 email chains that may be related to a multimillion-dollar no-bid Chicago Public Schools contract now at the center of a federal criminal investigation.  Continue>>>

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June 24, 2015 1:57 PM

The buzzword of the moment among local leaders is “open government,” and chief information officers are attempting to make the hype a reality. In the Center for Digital Government’s 2014 Digital Cities and Counties surveys, one of the top priorities for CIOs at the local level was “open government/transparency/open data.”

Yet, despite the strategic focus on open data, a recent Pew survey on views about open government found that only 7 percent of Americans think local governments share data effectively.  Continue>>>

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June 24, 2015 9:27 AM

Citing “budget pressure” identified at the 11th hour of the annual budget process by her Chief Financial Officer, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser Tuesday (23) in a closed-door session with D.C. Council members repeated her request that police video be exempt from public access, the same plan the Council has rejected once after public outcry. The new scare tactic was reported late Tuesday in the Washington Post on-line, in Wednesday's print edition, and early in the day Tuesday in a Tweet from Washington City Paper's Loose Lips columnist Will Sommer.  Continue>>>

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