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/.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

March 9, 2017 1:28 AM

The city of Tacoma will pay a $50,000 fine and legal fees for violating the Public Records Act by withholding most of a nondisclosure agreement it signed to obtain cellphone surveillance equipment known as Stingray.

The News Tribune reports The Center for Open Policing sued the city for blacking out large portions of the document after the organization requested it in 2014.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson on Friday ordered Tacoma to pay $100 a day for each day the city “wrongfully withheld the unredacted NDA from June 21, 2014, until November 3, 2015.

Continue...

March 8, 2017 12:41 AM

At a recent panel discussion hosted by the Tennessee Press Association, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell said they would be open to reviewing the hundreds of exemptions to the state’s public records law.

During the interaction, the leaders were pressed on the possibility of including a sunset provision on any new exemptions that are added to the public records law.

“I think that’s an idea that we need to probably pursue,” McNally said.

While the discussion on open records was relatively brief, it provided insight and hope for open records advocates who worry about the continuing effort to limit access to public records in Tennessee.

Continue...

March 8, 2017 12:38 AM

Because of Florida's Government in the Sunshine Law, the state's records and meetings are more accessible than in most states. But the Legislature has, year in and year out, instituted, or considered instituting, numerous exemptions. The body, on average, imposes up to a dozen a year; the grand total, as of early February, was 1,119.

Keeping an eye on those efforts is Petersen, president of Florida's First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee nonprofit open-government advocacy group. It's supported by newspapers and broadcasters as well as numerous lawyers and just plain citizens. Its mission is to help all of the above. Whether it's a powerful news outlet or a property owner wanting to see the paperwork for the road that was rerouted in front of his house.

Continue...

March 8, 2017 12:20 AM

For advocates of government transparency, the General Assembly's 2017 session was a mixed bag, resulting in bills that both increased and decreased information available under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the session saw fewer FOIA-related bills than in past years. Even so, the group stayed busy opposing legislation that Rhyne said would keep important information from the public.

She said one such bill was HB 1678, which would have allowed information on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to be withheld from mandatory disclosure under FOIA. The bill cleared the House of Delegates but was ultimately defeated in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

Rhyne said the "most concerning" bill this legislative session was HB 2043, which would have made the release of the names of police officers involved in police shooting investigations a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Continue...

March 7, 2017 1:10 AM

Boston has launched a beta version of a new citywide open data platform.

This project, dubbed Analyze Boston, is a work in progress, and city officials said in a statement that they hope the now-online preview will “spark conversation and get feedback” leading up to its official release this spring. The project's goal is to upgrade and enhance Boston’s current open data portal, on which Mayor Marty Walsh has long encouraged agencies to publish their data sets.

On the new site, visitors can now search through all of Boston’s open data sets, interacting with that data through preview, filter and visualization tools. Developers can also integrate those same data sets with robust API, or create charts and graphs that can then be embedded on external websites.

Continue... 

March 7, 2017 12:52 AM

[A] lawsuit in South Carolina could change who can access public information, and it's already affecting a high-profile case centered around the Godfather of Soul. The biggest thing in question here is can you, a private citizen, be stripped of your FOIA rights if you're being sued by a public body?

That would change the game. It would mean a lot of time and money that people probably don't have.

Right now that question is playing out in a lawsuit over one of James Brown's former trustees, Adele Pope. She requested some public documents, but once the Attorney General sued her, the court ruled she could only get those documents through discovery, a lengthy process of a lawsuit.

Continue...

March 3, 2017 11:45 PM

A Republican lawmaker has proposed a bill that would let Texas ignore public information requests from people who are not permanent residents of the state.

The Texas Public Information Act entitles any person, regardless of citizenship or residency, to obtain information about government agencies, public officials and government employees.

“The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know,” the act states. “The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

Continue...

March 3, 2017 11:41 PM

Advocates say Senate Bill 40 does something simple: It brings the Colorado Open Records Act into the 21st century by requiring state agencies to provide information in a digital format -- such as a database or a spreadsheet -- where feasible.

“These are the people’s records. We are the custodians, we are the stewards of these records,” said Democratic Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins. He’s the main sponsor of the bill.

For some, the issue is more complicated.

Continue...

March 3, 2017 11:40 PM

On March 2, the California Supreme Court held that emails sent to or from the personal accounts of public officials can be subject to disclosure if they are used to conduct public business. The decision stems from a 2009 public records request made to the city of San Jose.

The full text of the ruling can be found here.

March 3, 2017 12:54 AM

In Connecticut a bill before the legislature seeks to limit frivolous complaints to the state’s Freedom of Information Commission.

Republican State Representative Adam Dunsby of Easton proposed the bill. It would impose a $125 fee for two or more complaints submitted to the commission within a calendar year.

During a public hearing this week, Dunsby said these numerous complaints are not about transparency.

“The individual who is filing tens or hundreds of complaints is not interested in records. Their objective is to harass public officials.”

Continue... 

March 3, 2017 12:43 AM

In behind-the-scenes negotiations on a bill designed to make government more transparent in the digital age, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office offered a series of amendments that could dramatically expand the types of records that can be hidden from public view.

The draft proposal, obtained by The Denver Post, would add a new exemption to Colorado’s Open Records Act to allow the government to withhold “any personal identifying information” for people who are not public employees — including something as simple as a name, phone number or address.

Continue...

March 3, 2017 12:27 AM

A Missouri judge ruled the state Corrections Department intentionally delayed fulfilling a Sunshine request over the source of execution drugs to avoid returning them and facing negative publicity.

"The Missouri Department of Corrections violated the public's trust, in both its plan to use questionably obtained drugs and by purposefully violating the Sunshine Law to cover up its scheme," American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said in a Monday statement touting the ruling.

Continue...

Syndicate content