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 18, 2015 9:10 AM

Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker is taking the wraps off his long-awaited social network for politics, Brigade, saying it is one step toward tackling a problem that his former company, Facebook, hasn’t managed to solve.

Parker said he’s been thinking about how technology can help better engage Americans in political life since about the time he started helping Mark Zuckerberg turn Facebook from a bare-bones website into the mammoth social platform it is now. Now he’s decided that the first step is getting people comfortable taking political stands online.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 2:06 PM

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he wants to increase “transparency and accountability” in the state’s campaign finance reporting process.

Balderas sent Secretary of State Dianna Duran a letter Wednesday describing what he sees as shortcomings in the current system of campaign finance reporting.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:58 PM

Multiple whistleblowers have come forward from the U.S. Marshals Service, claiming that leadership within the agency uses requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to retaliate against individuals because they sought to report various abuses of power.

Among the claims made by the whistleblowers is that the U.S. Marshals Service has a major problem with nepotism. One cited example is that Kimberly Beal, the agency’s assistant director, allegedly hired a family member to be an intern in her office and then approved multiple cross-country trips for the individual. Those trips are only supposed to be approved for criminal investigators. According to the whistleblowers, issues like these are regular occurrences within the U.S. Marshals Service.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:38 PM

AUGUSTA — Legislative leaders on both sides of the political aisle Tuesday defended a $6.7 billion state budget and tax bill crafted largely in secret negotiations between party leaders, saying they ran out of time to follow a more public process.

Changes to a budget bill that was previously approved on a 9-4 bipartisan vote of the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee came in the form of a series of amendments, including one that dramatically revamps the state's tax policy.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:07 PM

HELENA, Mont. - Directors at six state agencies say they'll be ready to record their meetings when new transparency laws requiring them to do so take effect this year.

Five agencies must make video or audio recordings of their meetings available online or on television within one working day beginning July 1. They include the Board of Public Education, Board of Investments, teachers' and public employees' retirement boards and the Board of Regents.

The Board of Pardons and Parole's deadline is in October under a different law that came with funding and no deadline to publish the records.  Continue>>>

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June 16, 2015 2:18 PM

Join Third Way and Democracy Journal on Friday, June 19th for a lunch discussion on government transparency and public trust.  The event will kick off with a keynote address on current efforts to use transparency to increase trust in government in the U.S. and then present the findings of an innovative taxpayer receipt experiment in the United Kingdom.  It will close with a discussion by leading academics and practitioners on opportunities to build trust in government and citizen engagement among American voters - and the hurdles that may stand in the way.  Continue>>>

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June 16, 2015 1:30 PM

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, and other media organizations over the behind-the-scenes firing of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

The proposed agreement, if approved by the Cabinet at its June 23 meeting, provides for the governor and Cabinet to revise their email policies, refrain from using aides as conduits, pay attorneys fees and change other policies, including:  Continue>>>

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June 16, 2015 10:41 AM

ALBANY–A bill shortening the time a state agency can take to appeal a Freedom of Information Law decision passed the Senate on Monday, three months after passing the Assembly.

The measure, sponsored by Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, a Republican from Western New York, and Assemblyman David Buchwald, a Westchester Democrat, passed both houses unanimously.

If a court decides an agency’s rejection of a records request was improper, the agency can currently file an appeal and take up to nine months to complete it. The new bill would require the agency to file notice within 30 days, then file a brief within 60 days. The appeal would then “be given preference” before the court, thus limiting the time an agency can drag out the process.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, FOIA appeals, new york
June 15, 2015 1:55 PM

Advocates for reform of DC Jail reported Thursday (11) on six recommendations about facilities and programs, but they save the seventh to blast the District government for how hard it had been to track down facts about the Jail and the privately-run annex, CTF.

"Public records are difficult to obtain," wrote the authors. "The process for obtaining public records regarding the District's correctional system is complex, time-consuming, occasionally befuddling, and sometimes fruitless."  

The 53-page report, from the D.C. Prisoners Rights Project of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, was released at a press event at the Covington & Burling law firm that contributed staff for the research. The analysis was overseen by an advisory committee of retired and senior D.C. and federal judges, John Ferren, Rufus King, Ricardo Urbina and Patricia Wald.  Continue>>>

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June 15, 2015 10:04 AM

The Washington Teachers Union and open-government advocates are urging the D.C. Council to slow down a vote that would curb access to information related to teacher evaluations, one of the most controversial aspects of education reform efforts in the District.

A proposed amendment, included in the Budget Support Act that the council is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, would block public record requests for individual education evaluations, “effectiveness ratings,” observations, and other assessments. Summary or aggregate-level data would not be exempted from public release.  Continue>>>

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June 15, 2015 9:59 AM

The New York State Freedom of Information Law states:

"The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government."

While this statement is a great ideal, freedom of information does not equal open data. Recently, I was searching for property data on a public website in a particular county in New York State. I was able to find what I was looking for, but rather than being available in a format that would have been easily portable or open it was instead embedded in a word processing document. Continue>>>

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June 14, 2015 3:36 PM

Wondering how much the city spent on road salt this winter? Interested in the expenses for keeping up the city's parks?

That information will soon be at your fingertips.

Stow has decided to become a pioneer in Summit County by becoming the first entity to participate in the state treasurer's Government Transparency Program.  Continue>>>

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