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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August 8, 2016 12:58 PM

Thanks to the Texas Supreme Court, McAllen taxpayers cannot find out how much their city paid Enrique Iglesias to belt out his Latin pop lyrics at a holiday parade.

And Houston cannot release, among other information, how many driver permits it has issued to ride-hailing giant Uber.

A Kaufman County school district’s food service deal? Much of that is now secret, as are details of a Texas Department of Insurance contract for interpretation services. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 3:58 PM

Reclaim The Records has done it again. We are proud to announce that our Freedom of Information lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York, fighting for the right to a first-ever public copy of the New York City marriage index, has been successful!

The New York City Clerk's Office announced their intention to settle with us on Tuesday, July 5, 2016, less than twenty-four hours before they were due to face us in court on Wednesday, July 6. A draft version of the stipulation and settlement papers were agreed to yesterday, Thursday, August 4, with two small items awaiting final sign-off, and we expect the final papers to be signed in the next week. The City has already started duplicating the microfilms for us, and our attorney has given us the all clear to finally tell people the good news. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 2:23 PM

Citizens aren’t being allowed to speak up at City Commission meetings.

At least not until officials review alternatives to the public comment period, or citizen communication, which allows citizens to speak before commissioners for up to two minutes. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 12:28 PM

A judge in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island began hearings Wednesday in a lawsuit against the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, spurred by a local journalist.

Providence-based writer Phil Eil, says he’s fought for more than five years to obtain access to thousands of pages of public evidence from a pill-mill trial, about which he plans to write a book. Continue...

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August 5, 2016 10:20 AM

The FBI—along with every other government agency—creates and obtains records as it carries out its day to day operations. In the Bureau, these records generally include investigative files, personnel files, and policy guides. A majority of these documents are indexed in our Central Records System (CRS)—an electronic index that allows Bureau personnel to query requested information. While the CRS contains most of the FBI's records, some of our earliest records were not indexed, and some records have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration. Continue...

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August 4, 2016 2:58 PM

In the past, we’ve covered attempts by some political groups (or politicians) to access climate scientists’ e-mails. The idea is generally to trawl through them for anything that can be used to bolster the claim that climate science is somehow fraudulent—hypothetically vindicating those who have refused to acknowledge the scientific consensus for decades.

A long-time target of these activists has been researcher Michael Mann, whose work on tree ring climate records resulted in “the hockey stick,” a graph of the last millennium of climate history that shows rapid warming at the end of a gradual cooling trend. Although that record has been extended and replicated many times now, some still believe Mann must have somehow distorted the data to produce the appearance of sudden warming. As a result, Mann has been involved in court cases for years over demands for his e-mails from a conservative advocacy group and then Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. More recently, Mann has been involved in a countersuit against those who publicly accused him of fraud. Continue...

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August 4, 2016 2:19 PM

When an orthodontist asked the reporter if he wanted a good story idea, the reporter, of course, said "yes."

Jeff Donn, a national writer with The Associated Press and 2012 Pulitzer finalist, was doubtful, at first, about that tip from his son's orthodontist: There's no solid evidence that flossing actually works. Continue...

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August 4, 2016 1:52 PM

We’re busting out of the Beltway. This year, Sunlight is focusing TransparencyCamp, our annual unconference, exclusively on state and local issues. Please join us and hundreds of your friends and colleagues from across the country on Oct. 14–15, when we head to Cleveland and convene our communities in the city’s stunning downtown public library.

Why Cleveland? We wanted to host this TransparencyCamp in a town with strong grassroots organizers and clear problems its community is trying to solve. We looked across the United States, talking to our friends and allies. We looked for a place where people are dedicated to open government and innovation and the possibilities they offer. We wanted to connect with an amazing library system, close to multiple schools and universities. Continue...

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August 3, 2016 11:09 AM

Wisconsin’s third branch of government is critical to open government. This year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear three cases involving Wisconsin’s open records law, and could make important decisions involving access to the courts.

The court’s docket starts with a case about whether videos of law enforcement training sessions must be released to the public. The videos were requested from then-Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin during the race for attorney general, which Schimel later won. Continue...

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August 3, 2016 10:48 AM

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is conducting a survey of journalists and news organizations on a "Release to One, Release to All" policy under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Generally, the policy calls for records released in response to a FOIA request to be simultaneously posted online for public viewing. A handful of federal agencies recently finished a pilot program, and the federal government is now seeking to roll out the policy across the executive branch. Continue...

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August 3, 2016 10:41 AM

Michigan’s primary elections, taking place today, may offer few competitive races. But one of them has offered a look at an unusual type of legal action—one in which a government entity sues a local media outlet in response to a public-records request.

These cases aren’t unprecedented. Often, they arise when a local government entity says it fears being sued after responding to a records request, and decides to go on offense. But they are, fortunately, uncommon, in part because courts generally have tended to take a dim view of the legal maneuver—which is what happened here. Continue...

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August 1, 2016 11:54 AM

The former general counsel for the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada must stop destroying digital evidence related to a fraud complaint, a federal judge ordered Wednesday.

     Court findings indicate Las Vegas-based tech firm Switch in June became aware defendant attorney Carolyn "Lina" Tanner published online and social media posts under the pseudonyms DixieRaeSparx, #DixieRaeSparx or @DixieRaeSparx. Continue...

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