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

November 18, 2015 11:32 PM

The Chicago Police Department violated the state's Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release a video of a white police officer fatally shooting an African-American teen to a newspaper, according to a recent opinion from the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

The five-page ruling on Nov. 6 was made public one day before a Cook County judge is scheduled to decide whether to make public the police car dashboard video of Laquan McDonald's shooting.

City officials so far have declined to release the potentially inflammatory video, citing an ongoing federal grand jury probe into the shooting. No charges have been filed against the officer, identified by the Tribune as Jason Van Dyke. Continue...


November 18, 2015 11:27 PM

New Jersey's largest newspapers and some of the biggest U.S. media companies are challenging a 2013 ruling by a Bergen County judge that they say gives government agencies in New Jersey unprecedented power to deny requests for public records.

Experts call it one of the most consequential legal battles involving privacy rights and government transparency New Jersey has seen in years. A state appeals court heard oral arguments for nearly two hours Tuesday.

The case began when a reporter for North Jersey Media Group, which owns The Record and 49 community newspapers, requested a range of documents and recordings in 2013 that would be kept on file at the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. Continue...

November 18, 2015 11:16 PM

Virginia’s public-records panel will explore changes to state law to address the ramifications from a recent state Supreme Court ruling that advocates have warned could have sweeping effects on government transparency.

At a meeting Wednesday, the co-chairman of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council said the body will look into concerns raised by Sen.-elect Scott A. Surovell, D-Fairfax, who took the Department of Corrections to court last year after being denied information about the state’s procedures for carrying out the death penalty.

In September, the Supreme Court ruled that the prisons agency could keep its execution manual secret. The court ruled that the department could withhold the entire document rather than redacting sensitive portions that officials argued could jeopardize security. Continue...


November 17, 2015 11:06 PM

A Massachusetts House committee is set to unveil a bill that would allow those who are thwarted in seeking public records to collect attorney fees, but the measure does nothing to strengthen what is largely viewed as one of the nation’s weakest public records laws and, in fact, could make it harder to get records in some cases.

The bill being circulated to committee members for approval, which is slated to go for debate before the full House Wednesday, also drops fines from the original sponsors’ bills against individuals who do not comply with the law and, instead, leaves it to a judge to levy a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 against the agency or municipality.

The measure would also allow agencies and communities to request time extensions if they deem the request to be heavily involved, delays that could go up to 75 days after an initial request. Continue... 


November 17, 2015 11:00 PM

As a nonprofit focused on educating and empowering consumers to protect themselves from false and deceptive advertising, routinely files requests under the Freedom of Information Act with state and federal officials for consumer complaints lodged against companies it is investigating.

These complaints provide valuable information about experiences consumers have had with a business. While consumer complaints filed with key federal consumer protection agencies are available to the public, states differ drastically as to whether and how they disclose these same types of complaints. Continue...


November 17, 2015 9:58 PM

Some of the most common data requests central Indiana city officials field are now available in an online, searchable database. Fishers, Zionsville and Greenwood are joining Indianapolis in publishing police statistics in an online web portal.

The cities are posting records of complaints against police, law enforcement use of force and officer-involved shootings all on one website. The site -- -- launched Monday and the other cities will follow soon.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says transparency trumps any concern over someone digging up dirt. Continue...


November 17, 2015 9:39 PM

Was there ever a time when the American public was more distrustful of the government?

Was there ever a time when the government was more determined to keep secret the information it collects at the public’s expense?

Government secrecy and public distrust go hand in hand. They feed on each other. And that may help explain why Iowa politicians, despite their fatuous claims of openness and transparency, are actually so contemptuous of “the public’s right to know.” Continue...


November 17, 2015 9:30 PM

Nominations are encouraged for the 2016 James Madison Awards honoring persons and organizations in northern California who have championed freedom of information and/or freedom of speech/press/expression during the past year or over an extended time span.

The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, is accepting the nominations through Friday, Jan. 8. You can access an online entry form at There is no contest entry fee.

Award categories include but are not limited to journalist (professional and student), source/whistleblower, attorney, citizen, public official, educator, cartoonist, news outlet, nonprofit organization, electronic access and career achievement. SPJ NorCal welcomes suggestions for other categories.

The 2016 James Madison Awards Banquet is to take place Thursday evening, March 10, at The City Club, 155 Sansome St., San Francisco. 

For additional information, or for questions, please email

November 17, 2015 7:46 PM

A ruling from the Texas Attorney General's office has just made it more difficult to access information about the kinds of crimes undocumented immigrants have committed in Dallas County — and whether local officials turned those offenders over to federal authorities.

In a Nov. 13 ruling, the AG's office determined that because the Dallas County Sheriff's Office booking system is maintained for use by the court system, it is not subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

The ruling was in response to a request from The Texas Tribune for booking information on all "non-U.S. citizens" placed in the Dallas County jail since 2007. Continue...


November 17, 2015 7:40 PM

So much for the Wisconsin Senate sticking up for good-government principles.

The Republican-run Senate caved last weekend to the Assembly’s demands for weak oversight of state election and ethics rules.

The only hope now, as the Assembly prepares to send two bad bills to the governor Monday, is a pair of vetoes. Unfortunately, Gov. Scott Walker has shown little interest in preserving a nonpartisan and independent GAB to settle partisan disputes over campaign tactics and spending. The governor, it appears, would rather put the politicians in charge of policing themselves. Continue...


November 17, 2015 7:38 PM

In order to be transparent, many on-campus groups are required to comply with the Open and Public Meetings Act, a Utah law that consists of seven key provisions. Five of these groups affect the majority of campus — students and faculty.

While these bodies are required to receive annual training on the act in order to ensure compliance, none of the groups are completely compliant with the provisions. Continue...


November 17, 2015 7:31 PM

Advocates of open government met in Orlando on Monday to discuss ways to fight what they describe as a growing trend toward government secrecy in Florida.

The Florida Sunshine Coalition, part of the Florida First Amendment Foundation of Tallahassee, called for increased cooperation among newspapers, TV stations, nonprofit groups, academic institutions and law firms to battle a rise in efforts to thwart the state's long tradition of open government.

And it all may come together in time for a proposed "Sunshine Day" in Tallahassee on Jan. 26. Continue...

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