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

May 10, 2016 6:15 PM

From the 1991 Rodney King beating in California to the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, nothing had more impact on the public than the video evidence. And, in cities across the nation, video of police-citizen interactions have helped inform the debate over police conduct.

In fact, that’s the point behind efforts to equip all cops with body cameras. Along with dashcams, surveillance camera footage and cellphone video, body cams can help give the most accurate accounts of what happens as police officers do their jobs.

However, the body-camera bill passed by the Minnesota Senate this week tilts too heavily toward police control of the video and limits public access. It should not be approved by the Legislature. Continue...


May 9, 2016 8:26 PM

It’s been almost a year since the White House first announced that it would be leading an effort to unite law enforcement agencies around the goal of achieving greater transparency through data.

In April, the White House Police Data Initiative (PDI) celebrated its progress by gathering leaders in the field for a two-day event to discuss the challenges and successes of releasing open police data to the public. The initiative began with 21 participating jurisdictions last May.

Since then, that number has more than doubled to 53 jurisdictions that have published over 90 datasets in the process. In light of commitments by 32 additional agencies and organizations, Sunlight reaffirmed its dedication to the ideals of the initiative by pledging to add all datasets opened by participating agencies to Hall of Justice, a repository of criminal justice information launched in February. Continue...


May 9, 2016 8:22 PM

If the unions that represent Chicago's police officers had their way, the records of hundreds of thousands of citizen complaints against cops would have been fed into the shredder by now.

They wouldn't be available for the U.S. Department of Justice as it tries to determine whether police have routinely engaged in behavior that violates the civil rights of citizens. They'd be gone.

The DOJ review was launched after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was shot 16 times though he posed no apparent threat to Van Dyke or others at the scene. Continue...


May 9, 2016 8:05 PM

Jeffrey Clay, a prominent local government watchdog in southern New Hampshire, was awarded more than $40,000 by a federal judge following a disorderly conduct arrest at an Alton selectmen’s meeting in February 2015.

Clay, 57, of Alton, was arrested during the public input portion of the meeting after asking all of the selectmen to resign because of their “poor decisions.”

His remarks were deemed to be “character assassination” by Selectman David Hussey. Clay was arrested by Police Chief Ryan Heath after continuing to request resignation following the selectmen voting to close public input. Continue...


May 9, 2016 7:59 PM

An official tasked with improving the operation of the Freedom of Information Act across the Obama Administration is resigning after less than a year on the job, several sources briefed on the move told Politico.

James Holzer took over last August as director of the Office of Government Information Services, which serves as an ombudsman between federal agencies and FOIA requesters. The office also conducts audits of agencies' FOIA operations and proposes ways to streamline those processes.

Two sources said Holzer is returning to a position at the Department of Homeland Security, where he worked before joining OGIS, a part of the National Archives. Continue...


May 9, 2016 7:56 PM

Here comes the sun, Here comes the sun, and I say, It’s all right. George Harrison could have written those words about Ohio in recent weeks, as a pair of legal developments have called attention to freedom-of-information issues in the Buckeye State and promise to make state and local government more open.

As one of my friends in the legal world there put it, “Not sure who flipped the switch, but it feels like Sunshine Week … right now.”

First, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, introduced a bill last week empowering citizens to challenge public-record denials without the need for a lawyer by paying $25 for the Ohio Court of Claims to resolve the dispute. One of its judges would do so after a special master mediated the dispute and issued a recommendation. Faber told The Columbus Dispatch that he expects the entire process, from start to finish, would take no more than 45 days. Continue...


FOI, Ohio, open government
May 6, 2016 9:19 PM

Legislation that would grant the public access to records of police misconduct and use of force faces its next test Monday in a state Senate committee.

Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 1286 is our favorite open-government bill in Sacramento this year, the one we endorsed during Sunshine Week because it would shed light on instances of police misconduct that are generally concealed from public view.

We see it as a bill that would increase the public’s trust and confidence in its law enforcement agencies by diminishing the secrecy that protects the few bad apples whose misdeeds tarnish their entire agencies. Continue...


May 6, 2016 9:16 PM

Legislators are meeting in secret in Juneau on momentous questions that could shape the future of Alaska for decades.

It’s no secret they disagree about the budget, oil taxes, oil tax credits, the return of the income tax, increases in other taxes, whether to restructure the Alaska Permanent Fund and the formula for the Permanent Fund dividend.  

By keeping these arguments out of public view, perhaps fearing an outbreak of candor, legislative leaders have shortchanged Alaskans. This will make it harder for legislators interested in re-election to gain public acceptance if, and when, these matters are settled. Continue...


May 6, 2016 9:14 PM

A Missouri House bill to close law-enforcement records to the public has no chance of passage in the Senate, Sen. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, said Wednesday.

On April 28, the House passed the measure by a vote of 129-9 that would make police reports of suicide or attempted suicide closed records.

It also would close law-enforcement records if they contain “personally identifiable health information” about victims, offenders and law-enforcement officers, said the Missouri Press Association, which opposed the bill. Continue...


May 6, 2016 9:10 PM

A federal judge said he may order Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton to testify under oath about whether she used a private email server as secretary of state to evade public records disclosures.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan signed an order granting a request from the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch to question six current and former State Department staffers about the creation and purpose of the private email system.

Those on the list were some of Clinton’s closest aides during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, including former chief of staff Cheryl D. Mills, deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and undersecretary Patrick F. Kennedy. Continue...


May 6, 2016 9:08 PM

A bill supported by high-ranking General Assembly members would give Delaware regulators more power to revoke or suspend teacher licenses and make those sanctions more transparent.

"The bill came about because we're trying to do everything we can to protect our children," said Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, main sponsor of the legislation.

The proposal comes after an investigation by The News Journal and USA Today Network found a patchwork of state licensing laws sometimes allows troubled teachers to slip through the cracks and back into the classroom. Continue...  


May 5, 2016 9:31 PM

The Facebook page of a former mayor is public record, says a New Mexico court. Now she needs to figure out how to reactivate the account, which has been shut down.

“Hopefully everything is still there,” Stephen Thies, the Alamogordo City attorney, told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The city previously denied an individual’s request to examine the Facebook page set up by Susie Galea, who resigned as Alamogordo’s mayor in December 2015, the Alamogordo Daily News reported. The social media account was not created for the city, lawyers argued, so it was not public record. Continue...


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