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 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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June 24, 2015 9:20 AM

The judgment was given in a dispute about NAMA's status, which arose after a journalist sought certain information in relation to the agency.

Former Information Commissioner Emily O'Reilly ruled in 2011 NAMA should be subject to environmental information requests because it is a public authority.  Continue>>>

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June 24, 2015 9:20 AM

The judgment was given in a dispute about National Asset Management Agency's (NAMA) status, which arose after a journalist sought certain information in relation to the agency.

Former Information Commissioner Emily O'Reilly ruled in 2011 NAMA should be subject to environmental information requests because it is a public authority.  Continue>>>

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June 23, 2015 3:02 PM

CHATHAM - A judge has dismissed a petition filed by three residents against the Pittsylania County Agricultural Development Board. However, he granted them reasonable attorney fees they had requested in the case.

"I'm dismissing the petition because I'm not convinced there's a need for it," said Pittsylvania County General District Court Judge J. Larry Palmer.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, FOIA lawsuit, Virginia
June 23, 2015 9:35 AM

After 19 months at the helm of the National Institute of Justice, Greg Ridgeway quit last summer to join the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. Just days before he left, NIJ gave one of his new colleagues at Penn a $3 million grant.

Ridgeway, who recused himself from Penn’s funding request, said the timing of the grant award and his Ivy League hiring was coincidental. While he’s now associated with the Penn Injury Science Center, Ridgeway said, he doesn’t even know its assistant director Douglas Wiebe, the lead investigator for the NIJ-funded project.  Continue>>>

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June 23, 2015 9:11 AM

Western Watersheds Project has filed a federal lawsuit against Wildlife Services, saying the federal agency hasn’t responded to its Freedom of Information Act requests for documents detailing its activities in killing wildlife in Idaho. Talasi Brooks, an attorney with Advocates for the West, which is representing the conservation group in the case, said, “The Freedom of Information Act’s basic purpose is to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny.

Wildlife Services has never disclosed the full nature, extent and environmental impacts of its Idaho operations. We hope this lawsuit will force the agency to produce the information requested so we can make sure Idahoans know what Wildlife Services is up to in our state.”  Continue>>>

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June 22, 2015 8:48 AM

Police agencies nationwide and across Western New York are increasingly adding body cameras to their uniforms in response to public demands for more oversight of police.

"The benefit to the body camera is wherever I go, the camera goes," said Det. Thomas Dewey, NFTA Transit Police.

Public demands escalated over the last year following the controversial deaths of suspects in Ferguson, North Charleston and Baltimore.  Continue>>>

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June 22, 2015 8:43 AM

Rights to personal privacy and government access soon may be added to the Wyoming Constitution.

Lawmakers meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday voted to have staff members draft a proposed constitutional amendment that guarantees residents a “right to individual privacy” and a “right to know” about public business.

The move comes after the Legislature rejected a bill earlier this year that would have asked voters to approve the privacy amendment without open government protections.  Continue>>>

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