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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March 10, 2014 1:22 AM

Today the Republican National Committee sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the National Archives and Records Administration in order to find out who was responsible for improperly withholding documents at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library for over a year. The lawful withholding period of the documents expired in January 2013, but no documents were released until February 2014. Many documents have yet to be released. As such, the RNC is requesting copies of any correspondence related to the review, consideration, or withholding of documents.

This week the Clinton Library announced that the next release of documents will be delayed, making it even more important to keep a watchful eye on their actions and for any political pressure that’s affecting their behavior.

“The Clintons have a history of trying to keep their past secret from the American people. Americans deserve to know who was responsible for keeping on lockdown documents that should have been released over a year ago,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. Continue>>>

March 10, 2014 12:11 AM

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s bill to strengthen Washington state’s open government laws by requiring training for most public officials has passed the Legislature and is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

Ferguson worked with Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, to secure approval of the “Open Government Trainings Act,” Engrossed Senate Bill 5964.

“Open government is vital to a free and informed society,” Ferguson said. “This new law will enhance government transparency and ensure that public officials know and understand our state’s public disclosure laws which were overwhelmingly approved by the voters.” Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 6:07 AM

As Westchester County considers filing a second lawsuit against the federal government over the loss of millions in community development grants, the administration of County Executive Rob Astorino is refusing to disclose the cost of its lengthy legal fights over the county's compliance with a 2009 fair housing settlement.

The Journal News filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the county Law Department asking for the cost of the legal work, which has included a battle over source of income legislation that the county lost at the Court of Appeals and a continuing case at the Court of Appeals over the loss of $7.4 million in community development grants from 2011.

Astorino, who recently announced he is running for governor, is asking for permission to sue the Department of Housing and Urban Development again over $10 million in grants from 2012 and 2013, which have been withheld and could be lost permanently. Continue>>>

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March 9, 2014 5:06 AM

While Delawareans familiar with the state’s Freedom of Information Act rules may understand guidelines surrounding fees, some may still be surprised once they receive the bill following their request.

A batch of public records requests made to Delaware shore towns showed widely diverging approaches to how much, if at all, a community charges for access to documents.­

In Dewey Beach, Jim Dedes, assistant to the town manager, calculated the fee for a recent FOIA request from The Daily Times based on town staff’s cost of labor. He allowed one hour of free labor, but charged $15 per hour for two hours of his work. A police dispatcher and police clerk, who also worked on the records request, charged $9.85 per hour for three hours and $16.50 per hour for 3.75 hours, respectively. The total cost of the records amounted to $105.68. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 4:55 AM

A bill to make updates to the state government transparency website happen faster is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn.

House Bill 1040, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, moves responsibility for posting data to the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal to the governor’s office itself, and mandates all state departments to develop a plan to more quickly get data posted and updated. The portal, created five years ago through another Tryon bill, includes information such as state employees’ pay, state agency expenses and contracts, and local governments’ annual financial reports.

Tryon said he envisioned the website having almost instantaneous updates, but said it has fallen far short – in some cases, up to five months behind. His bill moves responsibility for the portal out of the Department of Central Management Services, which is in charge of state government’s IT needs. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 3:44 AM

 It plans to increase the number of producers from the current 23 to as many as 35, as well as boost the number of plants each can grow, adding 300 seedlings to the 150 plants now allowed.

That growth on the supply side may well be necessary, because there has certainly been growth on the demand side: There are 10,621 patients enrolled in the program, up more than 1,500 from early last year.

A recent DOH-commissioned survey had patients saying they were being turned away by providers with empty shelves and forced to buy the drug illegally from street dealers, which shouldn’t happen in a government-sanctioned program. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 2:33 AM

The Wisconsin Legislature is embarked on yet another attack on the state's longtime tradition of open government.

This latest attack, which has support from both sides of the aisle, is a bill that would remove from the state's online records system criminal cases that do not lead to convictions or are overturned on appeal.

The bill passed a Senate committee this week by a 5-0 vote and is on a fast track to become law before the Legislature adjourns later this month. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 2:22 AM

Once upon a time, Gov. Ella T. Grasso signed into law Connecticut’s pioneering Freedom of Information Act, which established an independent Freedom of Information Commission. This state was in the forefront of the post-Watergate movement for open government. “Secrecy in government is inherently inconsistent with a true democracy,” the General Assembly declared at the time. “The people … do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for them to know.”

But that was long ago, in 1975.

Then one day in 2011, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy came up with the idea of sweeping a bunch of small but important watchdog agencies, including the FOIC, into a new structure — ostensibly in order to “strengthen enforcement and compliance practices through information and knowledge sharing” — or maybe it was mainly to save money. In either case, that new entity (called the Office of Government Accountability) was to be run by somebody who ultimately answers to — you guessed it — the governor. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 1:11 AM

Locally elected officials are expected to conduct public business in the open, and not behind closed doors. And any abuse of closed-door executive sessions represents a serious breach of trust between an elected official and those constituents he or she is charged with serving.

That’s why we are concerned by the recent actions of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. Not only is this board holding executive sessions every month, but the five elected board members are increasingly spending more and more time behind closed doors. This is unacceptable, and can not continue.

Such closed-door meetings should be the exception, and never the rule. But they are seemingly being held every month by the board of supervisors. The regular board meetings begin each month at 6 p.m. Normally — but not always — there is a good-sized crowd in attendance. However, after the meeting is convened, the board members then retire into a closed-door executive session leaving the crowd outside, and the press, waiting for public business to be conducted. This action is insulting to those citizens who attend the regular meetings expecting the business of the public to be conducted in the open. Continue>>>
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March 4, 2014 5:55 AM

The people's right to know is, like "the spirit of scientific inquiry," a "search for the truth," wrote Herbert Brucker in his 1949 groundbreaking book "Freedom of Information."

The highly regarded Hartford Courant editor and journalism educator has been credited with coining the phrase "freedom of information." Every state now has freedom of information statutes.

"Democratic society," Brucker wrote, "is predicated on the search for truth. To put it another way, the information system serves democratic government as the bee serves a flower, by pollinating it," he wrote. Continue>>>
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March 4, 2014 4:44 AM

The Michigan House will soon consider bills that exempt firearm records from the Freedom of Information Act.

The bills also set up a method for law enforcement to obtain the records if it's needed for investigation purposes, although the bill says they would have to detail "reasonable suspicion" before they could gain access.

The National Rifle Association is the main interest-group backer of the bills, saying in other states such information has been published with the intent of ostracizing gun owners. They also say publishing the material advertises to thieves that valuable guns may be in their homes. Continue>>>
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March 4, 2014 3:33 AM

Some state employees will soon have to move to another building — but there’s one thing they won’t be allowed to bring with them: paper.

“We’re being pretty strict that paper should not move,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday at an open data conference hosted by the CT Data Collaborative at Hartford Public Library.

Instead, the data and documents on paper will have to be digitized — and the paper left behind. It’s part of the governor’s push to put data on a public-facing web portal, as directed by Executive Order No. 39.

“Ultimately, we want a substantially more efficient state government,” he said. “We may find that we’re collecting insufficient information, the wrong information, or we’re asking the wrong questions.” Continue>>>
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