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 22, 2016 12:23 PM

It should come as little secret to regular readers that governments often work to confound the public’s right to know when asked to make available information that might embarrass or cause them legal troubles.

In too many disputes over access to information under the Colorado Open Records Act, citizens, advocacy groups and media organizations don’t proceed, fearing high court costs and attorney fees. Even in cases where a government body is acting improperly by denying records or violating open meetings laws, the only alternative is to go to court. Continue...

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August 19, 2016 1:19 PM

Through August 31, 2016 the U.S. Department of State is conducting an online discussion between federal employees and the public on the initiatives proposed for inclusion in the State Department’s 2016 Open Government Plan. The goal of this dialogue is to engage with the public on the topics of transparency, participation, and collaboration and to show how these objectives are represented in the Department’s upcoming Open Government Plan.

Using the online GovUp platform hosted by TechChange, participants in the online discussion are able to review the State Department’s proposed Open Government initiatives, make comments, and share ideas prior to the publication of the State Department’s 2016 Open Government Plan in mid-September. Continue...

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August 19, 2016 1:08 PM

The title of “Chief Data Officer” – once uncommon in state and municipal governments – is becoming less uncommon. And that’s a very good thing for public sector innovation.

As recently as a few years ago, Chief Data Officers were found almost exclusively in big city governments like Chicago, New York and Philadelphia. Municipal governments provide services that touch citizens’ lives in more intimate ways than states or the federal government, and big cities have a critical mass of data that is attractive to the growing community of users with powerful tools for mapping and analyzing data. So it’s no surprise that cities have led the way in creating new, data-focused positions like CDOs, and in releasing open data to the public. Continue...

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August 19, 2016 12:53 PM

A small committee going line-by-line through Virginia's open records laws decided to punt Thursday on a months-long effort to rein in one of the laws vaguest sets of rules.

These are the parts of Virginia Freedom of Information's Act that deal with proprietary records and trade secrets – the things government keeps secret on behalf of private companies it works with. State Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims wrote in a 2014 opinion that the current law is too confusing to be consistently applied, but an effort to rework things foundered on the objections of state agencies and private sector lobbyists fighting for the status quo. Continue...

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August 19, 2016 12:48 PM

The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to improve its policies on responding to public-records requests, according to a new inspector general report.

The Pentagon’s inspector general evaluated the department’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies at the request of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who wanted to know whether political appointees were adversely affecting responses from January 2007 to July 2015. Continue...

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August 18, 2016 1:34 PM

Transparency advocatees from D.C., Maryland and Virginia jointly urged legislators to ensure the public and news media have access to meetings and documents of the Metrorail Safety Commission proposed to oversee the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”). The D.C. Open Government Coalition; the Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Press Association; and Virginia Coalition for Open Government sent letters Aug. 18 to key lawmakers in the three jurisdictions seeking amendments to a proposed interstate compact to establish the safety commission.

Legislation is already pending in the District (Bill 21-828), and lawmakers are expected to introduced identical bills when the Maryland and Virginia legislatures' 2017 sessions begin. The current bill alludes to an expectation of openness as a matter of policy, but falls short of mandating public access, and does not provide any enforcement mechanism. Continue...

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August 18, 2016 1:26 PM

In a July 21, 2016, opinion, the D.C. Office of Open Government directed the District's Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to end plans for months of private meetings of a school funding “working group” of officials and the public called for by law.

Established to pore over data to advise the mayor and the D.C. Council on the right funding levels to reflect different costs of educating students with diverse needs from pre-K through high school, the group had held its first session June 29 behind closed doors, without public announcement or agenda. Continue...

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August 18, 2016 1:19 PM

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) says more than 9 in 10 Tennesseans (92%) support public access to police body camera video when it records use of force that results in a citizen’s serious injury or death. That's according to a new poll by icitizen in collaboration with the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. The support crosses partisan, age and regional lines.

TCOG says the results demonstrate strong citizen agreement that such video be disclosed to the public. Continue...

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August 17, 2016 1:43 PM

Middle Township Police plan to join with 53 police departments around the country in sharing information about interactions between citizens and law enforcement to a national database, an official said Monday.

“We want to be the 54th police department in this database,” Police Chief Christopher Leusner told committee members at the Monday, Aug. 15 meeting in Town Hall. “We’re still deciding what data sets to share, but they have to be police/citizen interactions.” Continue...

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August 17, 2016 12:51 PM

Yesterday, in comments, 14 organizations committed to government openness and accountability express concerns that certain provisions in a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed regulations could hinder the FOIA process. The comments provide recommendations on ways the regulations should go further to ensure greater access to public interest information. The comments include recommendations designed to ensure that the proposed HHS FOIA regulations – the first revision since 1988 -- uphold requesters’ rights under the FOIA statute, and conform to the new provisions of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. Continue...

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August 16, 2016 1:41 PM

Not long after taking over as editor of the Des Moines Register in 2014, Amalie Nash told CJR that she was determined to uphold the paper’s “longstanding tradition of standing up for public records.”

So now, as she prepares to leave the Register after being promoted to the new position of West Region executive editor for Gannett, it’s fitting that the paper has just won a meaningful battle on the open-records front. The state of Iowa announced last week that it would no longer allow companies to unilaterally redact information from the public copies of bids for government contracts. The move was the result of a 2015 story by Register reporter Jason Clayworth that first revealed the practice, and a subsequent complaint Clayworth filed with the Iowa Public Information Board. Continue...

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August 16, 2016 1:34 PM

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has issued a binding opinion under the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that email messages sent or received through public employees' personal email accounts may be public records subject to disclosure under FOIA if the messages pertain to public business.

On Jan. 28, 2016, CNN submitted a FOIA request to the Chicago Police Department (CPD) seeking "all emails related to Laquan McDonald from Police Department email accounts and personal email accounts where business was discussed" by 12 police officers. McDonald, who was killed in the incident, was shot 16 times in October 2014 by a Chicago police officer. McDonald was unarmed and the incident drew headlines across the nation. Continue...

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