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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December 8, 2014 2:21 PM

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, late in the day, two veteran Tallahassee reporters finally received important public records from the office of Gov. Rick Scott. They had had requested the records, emails, more than three months prior, many weeks before Scott won a narrow re-election victory over former Gov. Charlie Crist.

While candidates might prefer to control the timing of a damaging news report — say, until after an election — Florida law doesn’t provide for that level of control where the release of public records are concerned.

Florida’s Sunshine Law, Florida Statute 119, states that “providing access to public records is a duty of each agency,” and “each agency must provide reasonable public access to records electronically maintained.” Continue>>>
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December 8, 2014 2:14 PM

Downtown Publications is appealing the denial of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to Bloomfield Township on September 14, 2014, requesting information relative to the pension obligation bond issue investments, including a copy of a Miller Canfield review of the investments done this past spring or summer, and any and all reports generated by firms subcontracted by the law firm, which the township's legal counsel in October denied as exempt under "attorney client privilege."

The Miller Canfield law firm was reportedly retained by Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie to review the township investment practices, including township treasurer Dan Devine, who was entrusted with investing the township's pension obligation bond funds, after investment fees on the 2013 $80-million pension obligation bond issue came in nearly $300,000 more than some officials thought would be paid to an outside advisor. Investment of the pension obligation bond funds is being handled by the firm of Gregory j. Schwartz and Company.

Miller Canfield reportedly retained an additional firm to review how investments were handled and although the review opinion was referenced by trustees at a public meeting months ago, the township has refused to make the Miller Canfield documents public. Sources have suggested to Downtown Publications that some questions about investment practices were raised in the opinion. Continue>>>
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December 8, 2014 2:11 PM

The Northwest Herald Editorial Board offers this week’s thumbs up and thumbs down this week:

Thumbs down: To state Sen. Pam Althoff, who twice voted in favor of House Bill 3796 and chipping away at the state’s Freedom of Information Act. HB 3796 lets governments identify certain FOIA requests as “voluminous.” Then, the government unit can delay providing information and charge between $20 and $100 for electronic data. Althoff, R-McHenry, was a Senate sponsor of the bill. She voted for it last spring and again this week to help override Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the bill. State Sens. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, and Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, also voted “yes” last spring, but smartly changed their votes to “no” this week. In the House, state Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo; David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills; Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake; and Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, all voted “no” – twice.

Thumbs up: To those that have donated money and time to helping the Bauman family of Crystal Lake recover from a November barn fire that killed as many as 32 horses. The family said the outpouring of support from the horse community has been “unbelievable” and that they have received sympathy cards from people all over the county. In the wake of tragedy, it’s good to see a community rally around a family that has experienced so much loss. Continue>>>
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December 8, 2014 2:04 PM

A bill reforming the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) could pass the Senate as early as Thursday, but at least one senator has placed a hold on the legislation.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 has been “hotlined,” meaning it is being considered for placement on the Senate’s unanimous consent calendar, where it could be passed without a lengthy debate.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in November and would be the first major reform of the FOIA since 2007. Among other provisions, the legislation would codify President Obama’s requirement for federal agencies to act with a “presumption of openness” and weaken agencies’ leeway to withhold documents more than 25 years old. Continue>>>
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December 8, 2014 1:56 PM

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act creates a monumental challenge for federal agencies. Government leaders, watchdog groups and citizens want to make sure tax dollars are being used in productive, efficient ways free from waste and fraud. They also want proof that publicly funded programs are performing well against stated missions and executing within budget.

The only way to know is by seeing the proof: the data itself. Government agencies can't just analyze and manage data. They must also share it in ways that are insightful and useful. The demand for government transparency and accountability is here to stay.

But open data should be viewed as an opportunity as much as a challenge -- an opportunity to encourage greater citizen participation and save precious budget dollars in the process. In fact, open data could be a huge money-saver. A McKinsey and Co. study has suggested that open data could allow government agencies to recover a combined $3 trillion a year or more. But those savings won't happen automatically. Continue>>>
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December 8, 2014 1:48 PM

A report on ways to create a more open government in Santa Rosa was welcomed by the City Council, though quick action on its recommendations is unlikely.

The report of the city’s Open Government Task Force was the final item presented to the outgoing City Council on Tuesday. That means implementation of its suggestions, including passing a sunshine ordinance and hiring a communications director, will fall to the new council, which will revisit the issue in February.

Several council members praised the work of the nine-member panel, which was formed by Mayor Scott Bartley following criticism of how the city reacted to the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 12:03 PM

Open records activists have launched a Twitter campaign urging Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., to lift a hold he placed on the FOIA Improvement Act.

The bipartisan companion bill was passed unanimously by the House in February and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it in November.

One senator shouldn't obstruct progress on making the federal government more transparent to the American people. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:56 AM

Your lame-duck Legislature is fiddling with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act again. No good can come of that.

Before they leave town this week, lawmakers with nothing to lose could be asked to vote on two bills, both of them designed to water down an already weak public records law.

Their aim is to make it harder for you to see what public officials are doing — on your behalf, with your tax dollars. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:39 AM

A long awaited Senate report on the CIA’s former “enhanced interrogation" techniques could be out by Monday.

Vice News reported Jason Leopold, who has a longstanding Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Obama administration over the so-called “torture report,” tweeted on Wednesday that the report should be out at the beginning of next week.

“Senate report on CIA interrogation program will be released MONDAY, govt atty just told my atty in my #FOIA case for the rpt,” he tweeted. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:32 AM

The Ann Arbor City Council went on record this week stating a preference for increased transparency when it comes to the release of public records.

The council voted unanimously to direct the city administrator to revise the city's Freedom of Information Act administrative policy to do just that.

The resolution sponsored by Council Members Sabra Briere, Jack Eaton and Sumi Kailasapathy notes the city administrator provided a draft of revisions to the city's policy for release of public records in early 2013. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:24 AM

Following this year’s state Supreme Court rulings that dramatically curtailed the public’s ability to follow the actions of public bodies, state senators have introduced legislation that could let some sunshine back in.

The court had said that public bodies, such as city councils, were not required to provide meeting agendas. The justices also ruled that autopsies were exempt from public disclosure because they were private medical records.

In September, a legislative panel heard testimony from the S.C. Press Association and others on the court’s rulings, along with ways to fix the Freedom of Information Act. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:21 AM

Once again, failure to follow the Freedom of Information Act, failure to provide responsive public records to the person requesting the records.

This is the 7th FOIA civil suit against Arcola Township.

You can read it below, but the main problem is that Arcola Township thinks they can do as they please, the law be damned. Continue>>>
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