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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April 27, 2016 6:31 PM

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has lost its attempt to block state agencies from permanently deleting emails after five days.

The state Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Commonwealth Court decision from July that rejected the newspaper’s argument that emails should be retained.

The newspaper had filed suit in September against the governor’s Office of Administration and the state Department of Education, asking the court to halt the practice of executive branch agencies destroying emails. Continue...

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April 27, 2016 6:27 PM

During Sunshine Week in March when attention nationwide was focused on government transparency, Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order calling on state agencies to "go above and beyond requirements of the Public Records Law and promote easier, fairer and broader access to public records."

The director of state courts hasn't gotten the message.

The office's interim director, J. Denis Moran, still has not responded to a USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin open records request that was filed more than four months ago, before the executive order was issued. Continue...

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April 27, 2016 6:25 PM

The Michigan Supreme Court decided not to define a public official under Michigan's Open Meetings Act, with two justices dissenting, according to a court order.

In a lawsuit ongoing for more than two years that alleged violations of Michigan's Open Meetings Act by Oakley village clerk Cheryl Bolf, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments April 6 and denied the application, an April 25 order states, "because we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court."

Five justices, Robert P. Young, Jr., Brian K. Zahra, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano, and Joan L. Larsen, agreed on the decision. Continue...

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April 26, 2016 6:54 PM

South Carolina’s water regulatory agency told the Environmental Protection Agency it has asked water systems to share more information with the public about lead sampling results and the location of lead service lines but that the state doesn’t have the information and utilities may not have it either.

The response came in a letter from the Department of Health and Environmental Control after the EPA asked every state to provide answers to a series of questions about the status of monitoring for lead in drinking water following the health crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The EPA asked each state to work with its public water systems, especially its largest water providers, to increase transparency by providing the public with an inventory of which customers may be receiving water through lead or partial-lead service lines. Continue...

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April 26, 2016 6:45 PM

New Orleans police released their first two recordings from body cameras worn by officers in late March. One was from the Jan. 7, 2015, fatal police shooting of Omarr Jackson in Central City and the other was the April 28, 2015, shooting death of Jared Johnson in New Orleans East. 

Superintendent Michael Harrison said the videos showed that officers behaved properly and were justified in their actions.

The department's internal investigation found no wrongdoing, and the district attorney's office chose not to file charges. The officers are back on duty. Continue...

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April 26, 2016 6:39 PM

Controversy is mounting over whether the state will require teachers to be evaluated and graded based partly on student test scores, but under pressure from the Freedom of Information Commission, the state is poised to begin releasing some evaluation data to the public.

The state legislature is currently considering a bill, sponsored by 52 of its 187 members, that would override the State Board of Education's push to link student test scores and teacher evaluations.

In the four years since the state overhauled its teacher evaluation system to include student and parent surveys, unannounced classroom observations, and eventually student test scores, the results of those evaluations have been shrouded in secrecy. Continue...

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April 26, 2016 6:33 PM

The benefits of open and participatory public procurement are increasingly being recognized by international bodies such as the Group of 20 major economies, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and multilateral development banks.

Value for money, more competition, and better goods and services for citizens all result from increased disclosure of contract data.

Greater openness is also an effective tool to fight fraud and corruption. Continue...

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April 26, 2016 6:27 PM

The D.C. Rental Housing Commission, a three-member body that sets rent ceilings, writes necessary regulations and hears appeals of decisions on rent complaints, in recent weeks has begun operating in greater sunshine.

The commission, independent in its work but administered within the Department of Housing and Community Development, for years published little online information about its activity, including when its meetings would be held, minutes afterwards, or details of hearings.

Inquirers, in the 21st Century, were directed to a posting worthy of Abe Lincoln’s days as a young attorney in Springfield, Illinois — “check the signboard outside the office.” Continue...

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April 25, 2016 6:40 PM

Rhode Island was the 49th state in the country to enact an open records law, and that reluctant show of support for government transparency still demonstrates itself in numerous ways.

Regrettably, when even the courts fail to vigorously enforce that law, the public’s right to know is bound to suffer significantly. The Rhode Island Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Caleb Chafee case highlights that.

Chafee was charged with, and paid a fine for, providing alcohol to a minor during a house party he hosted on property owned by his father, then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee. In light of the incident’s high-profile nature, The Providence Journal asked the State Police for copies of their voluminous investigatory records, 186 pages' worth. This Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request was denied on the grounds that their release would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court agreed. Continue...

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April 25, 2016 6:37 PM

As Philadelphia’s chief data officer, Tim Wisniewski, 28, holds a fairly new job title. He helps publish the city’s data—employee salaries, crimes and property assessments, among other things—for public consumption on the Web.

It’s all in the spirit of transparency and spurring civic innovation. Since Mr. Wisniewski took over in 2014, he has seen a number of promising outcomes, he says.

In a recent interview, he discussed open data and how it might shape city life going forward. Continue...

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April 25, 2016 6:34 PM

The Montana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in Jon Krakauer v. State of Montana and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian.

Investigative journalist and bestselling author Krakauer is seeking records related to the decision to vacate former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson's expulsion after multiple university proceedings found him guilty of rape.

In 2013, a jury acquitted Johnson of sexual intercourse without consent in Missoula County District Court. The court has scheduled oral arguments Wednesday at Montana State University in Bozeman. An introduction is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A. Continue...

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April 25, 2016 6:27 PM

What came through loud and clear at the Wisconsin Watchdog Awards dinner last week was that the true winner in last year's fights over open government issues was you.

Well-deserved awards were given, including the 2016 Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award to attorney Robert Dreps, who has spent his career fighting for the public's right to know.

But as Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, noted Thursday night, a sharp and loud and overwhelming public reaction was the critical element in turning back efforts to deny or limit access to public records. Lueders called that "terrific," (he actually held up a sign that said "terrific") and who can disagree? Continue...

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