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 3, 2016 3:06 PM

The city of Bayonne, New Jersey, has admitted that it didn't clearly explain why it denied part of an open public records request and will be paying $5,000 in legal fees to resolve a lawsuit over the matter.

The city's Feb. 22 admission comes about a month after it said in an opposition brief that it "provided an appropriate and lawful response" to the request.

On Dec. 23, John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's open government advocacy project, sued the city over its Nov. 9 response to his OPRA requests for information about two police brutality lawsuits. Continue...

———————

March 3, 2016 3:01 PM

Memphis attorney Lucian Pera is the new president of the nonprofit Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, a nonpartisan group seeking to improve access to public information and open government, according to a news release.

Pera is a partner with the Memphis office of Adams and Reese LLP, and has been on TCOG's board of directors since 2007. He has been vice president since 2010. Adam Yeomans, Associated Press Regional Director for the South, was elected vice president.

The board also re-elected Marian Ott as treasurer and Dorothy Bowles as secretary on the executive committee. Continue...

———————

March 2, 2016 5:36 PM

A bill that would make Nebraska grand juries report their proceedings to the public will be debated by the full Legislature.

An eight-member committee unanimously advanced the measure by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha on Tuesday.

Currently, if that jury does not produce an indictment, the public receives no explanation. Chambers says that secrecy fuels distrust of law enforcement. Continue...

———————

March 2, 2016 5:32 PM

A controversial Washington state bill that would have allowed local agencies to prioritize how they fulfill public records requests is dead.

House Bill 2576, which drew criticism from open-government proponents, but had strong support from local government entities, has been placed in the Washington State House Rules Committee “X” file, and will receive no further consideration this session, said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Joan McBride, D-Kirkland.

McBride’s proposal, which was aimed at stopping overly broad and harassing requests of local agencies, saw several changes throughout the session since its first hearing in the House committee on local government. Continue...

———————

March 2, 2016 5:23 PM

Rochelle Reynolds had lots of questions after her 25-year-old son, John, died following an early-morning encounter with police in the western Colorado town of Olathe in April 2015.

The Montrose County coroner ruled the death a suicide: John Reynolds, a registered sex offender with an active felony warrant for his arrest, fatally wounded himself with a sword-shaped letter opener before being Tased by an officer and then handcuffed.

For Rochelle Reynolds, who lives in Akron, Ohio, the bizarre circumstances of John’s death were difficult to grasp. She couldn’t understand how her son had the strength to charge at a police officer – who used his Taser on Reynolds multiple times – while suffering mortal stab wounds. Continue...

————————

March 2, 2016 5:13 PM

A bill that passed the state Senate and is barreling toward passage in the House would expand an exemption to the state’s public records law in the name of economic development, but open government advocates fear the bill could be used to justify secrecy in far more than recruiting companies.

The bill, SB 323, would allow any state agency to conceal documents about economic development projects involving business expansions of $25 million in investment or 50 jobs. After a deal is signed or negotiations terminated, the records would become public.

The law currently gives this exemption solely to the state Department of Economic Development. Critics of the bill say it is overly broad and should be narrowed to explicitly state that it only covers projects under the direction of that department. Continue...

———————

March 2, 2016 4:58 PM

Government produces a lot of data — reams of it, roomfuls of it, rivers of it.

It comes in from citizen-submitted forms, fleet vehicles, roadway sensors and traffic lights. It comes from utilities, body cameras and smartphones. It fills up servers and spills into the cloud. It’s everywhere. And often, all that data sits there not doing much.

A governing entity might have robust data collection and it might have an open data policy, but that doesn’t mean it has the computing power, expertise or human capital to turn those efforts into value.

The amount of data available to government and the computing public promises to continue to multiply — the growing smart cities trend, for example, installs networks of sensors on everything from utility poles to garbage bins.  Continue...

———————

March 1, 2016 6:56 PM

Gov. Rick Snyder released thousands of pages of staff emails over the weekend pertaining to the Flint water crisis, but Democratic leaders say that information doesn't supplant the state's need for a more robust Freedom of Information Act that applies to the governor and legislature.

Currently the governor's office is specifically exempt from having to disclose records under Michigan's FOIA. The legislature is exempt via an Attorney General opinion.

But the Flint water crisis, in which an unknown number of children were exposed to lead, has prompted a unprecedented release of information. Continue...

———————

March 1, 2016 6:53 PM

The Department of Natural Resources says it will no longer use a controversial "Do Not Respond" list to limit information it gives to people who have been deemed by the agency to be abusive or repetitive in their requests.

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said that upon learning of the matter, she's told staff that lists of this type won't be created or used.

One of the 16 people on the list who had sought information from the agency about pollution and wildlife concerns was Nancy Utesch of the group Kewaunee Cares. She said she doubts Stepp's word. Continue...

———————

March 1, 2016 6:49 PM

A new law that overhauls New Mexico’s online clearinghouse for information on political contributions and lobbying expenditures has been signed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Republican governor signed legislation Monday designed to standardize electronic reporting so that filings by candidates, lobbyists and political committees can be searched, cross-referenced or downloaded for analysis.

Martinez said the public will find it easier to access campaign finance information. Continue...

———————

March 1, 2016 6:44 PM

A secret stash of money – seized from citizens and then used to fund Delaware police agencies' wish lists – is lacking not only public review, but also state oversight that's required under the law.

A News Journal investigation in November found that state law shields police and prosecutors from having to tell taxpayers how they spend money from the state's Special Law Enforcement Assistance Fund, comprised of money and property seized from citizens suspected but not necessarily charged with a crime.

The results of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The News Journal revealed that the fund is also operating under the radar of the auditor's office. Continue...

———————

March 1, 2016 6:40 PM

When he first became chief clerk of the Missouri House in 2006, Adam Crumbliss’ view of Missouri’s Sunshine Law likely wasn’t much different than most.

“Legislators are part of government,” he said. “Government records are open. So I assumed legislative records should be open.”

Over time, as he’s studied the issue further, his opinion evolved.

He eventually came around to the interpretation championed by the House and Senate for years: The Missouri Sunshine Law, designed to cast light onto the workings of government, doesn’t apply to individual state representatives and senators or their staff. Continue...

———————

Syndicate content