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

July 21, 2016 1:14 PM

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, which was designed to give the public the right to scrutinize the records of government agencies. Almost no one needs public records more than an organization like ProPublica, whose mission is producing work that “shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”

Yet almost every reporter on our staff can recite aneurysm-inducing tales of protracted jousting with the public records offices of government agencies. Local, state and federal agencies alike routinely blow through deadlines laid out in law or bend them to ludicrous degrees, stretching out even the simplest requests for years. And they bank on the media’s depleted resources and ability to legally challenge most denials. Continue...


July 20, 2016 3:09 PM

It seems that two and a half years may not prove enough time to coalesce Virginia's various ideas of what constitutes a trade secret into a single code section that clarifies, among other things, what documents companies that do business with the government can shield from public view.

Five meetings of a working group dedicated to the issue have failed to reach consensus between state agencies that currently have their own varying ideas of what constitutes a proprietary record not subject to release under the state's Freedom of Information Act. Now the study subcommittee that tasked this working group to the issue will take one more stab at the matter before abandoning it to move on to other still-pending questions in a three year review of the open records laws that is slated to wrap this year. Continue...


July 20, 2016 2:11 PM

A federal judge has denied the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida's request for records pertaining to the use of StingRay cellphone surveillance devices in the Sarasota area.

Tampa U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled Friday that the ACLU's argument that the city of Sarasota should produce correspondence or records related to a police detective's use of a StingRay device was "without proof." Continue...


July 20, 2016 1:51 PM

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a law that could help families fighting to learn the truth about the death of loved ones.

Rauner signed legislation today that strengthens Illinois' Freedom of Information Act by increasing fines for public bodies that fail to comply with court orders to release information. Continue...


July 19, 2016 12:07 PM

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by an open-government activist who contends that the public should be allowed to view electronic data and metadata kept by local government agencies.

In summer 2013, John Paff requested a log of the emails sent by the Galloway Township police chief and the township clerk during a two-week period in June 2013, and then sued in an Ocean County court when his request was denied. Continue...


July 19, 2016 11:58 AM

Tackling a county budget may seem daunting, but Smart Cville tactfully lays out Albemarle’s budget in a spread of colors with its new budget visualization tool that illustrates how your money helps the county.

Smart Cville, a locally based nonprofit, aims to open up data, plain and simple. Creator Lucas Ames, 35, sent out a letter in mid-April requesting that Charlottesville adopt an open data resolution. In mid-June, the mayor convened a meeting to discuss open data as the city continues its work to further improve open-data relations between city legislatures and citizens. Continue...


July 19, 2016 11:31 AM

A training seminar on ethics and open government will be held in El Paso on Wednesday by the Austin-based Texas Center for Municipal Ethics.

The full-day seminar is open to anyone that wants to register, but organizers said city officials such as city managers, city secretaries, elected officials and city attorneys from the region are encouraged to attend the “Integrity at City Hall” training. Continue...


July 19, 2016 11:26 AM

The criminal charges against a Blue Ridge weekly newspaper publisher and his attorney, charges based on their attempts to access public records, were dropped Monday, putting to rest a case that riled media nationwide and stunned the legal community.

Judge Richard Winegarden, a retired Gwinnett Superior Court judge brought in to hear the case, conceded that it was unusual to call a hearing on a prosecutor’s motion to dismiss charges. But he recited a lengthy list of other events in the criminal case against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and Hiawassee attorney Russell Stookey that also made it extraordinary. Continue...


July 18, 2016 2:26 PM

Two White House offices jointly released new guidance on July 14 instructing agencies to expand their data transparency activities and incorporate public feedback.

The memo for the heads of executive departments and agencies, issued by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, builds on the Obama administration's open-data initiatives, including OMB's 2009 Open Government Directive, which requires agencies to incorporate data transparency into their central activities and update their open-government plans every two years. Continue...


July 18, 2016 2:22 PM

The Department of Corrections is seeking authority to destroy recordings of staff training just one day after their creation.

The agency, which is cooperating with federal investigators over allegations of staff abuse of inmates, destroying public records, and other incidents at its Irma youth prison, is asking the state’s Public Records Board to approve an update to the department’s records policy. Continue...


July 18, 2016 2:15 PM

A new lawsuit alleges that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) intentionally conducts inadequate searches of its records using a decades-old computer system when queried by citizens looking for records that should be available to the public.

Freedom of Information Act (Foia) researcher Ryan Shapiro alleges “failure by design” in the DoJ’s protocols for responding to public requests. The Foia law states that agencies must “make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format”. Continue...


July 18, 2016 1:49 PM

GovDelivery, the leading provider of cloud-based software solutions enhancing the citizen experience, announces availability of the first performance-based benchmarking report for public sector digital communications. The GovDelivery Benchmark Report, titled “Metrics that Matter in the Public Sector,” identifies proven metrics for measuring the success of digital communications within government and provides government-specific data that can be used to improve the citizen experience.

Each year, government agencies send billions of messages to serve millions of citizens, yet often have very different strategies for increasing engagement and enhancing opportunities to better leverage digital communications. In the report, GovDelivery analyzed the most important metrics based on data from approximately 1,800 government organizations that use digital communications to connect with more than 120 million individuals. Continue...


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