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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January 6, 2016 12:30 PM

Newspapers advocate open records for good reason. Without the ability to obtain, review and report on government records, we can’t effectively do what the Founders intended an unencumbered press to do: keep a watch on government and its powers in check. Minus that ability, the liberty and rights of American citizens can fall prey to an omnipotent government.

It’s why we must be very careful about placing limits on what’s open for public inspection.  Continue...

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January 6, 2016 12:22 PM

There’s a heated battle between elected leaders of two state agencies.  This year, the attorney general’s office is set to be audited by the state, like dozens of other agencies.

But, that won’t happen with AG Scott Pruitt if he has his way.  Continue...

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January 6, 2016 12:14 PM

FLINT, MI -- Common Cause Michigan is calling for Gov. Rick Snyder to drop his executive privilege and release all documents and correspondence connected to the Flint water crisis.

The nonprofit organization's executive director called for the action in an email statement today, Jan.5, the same day that the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed it is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate Flint's lead water contamination.  Continue...

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January 6, 2016 12:07 PM

On December 9, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially launched its new electronic portal for the submission of certain voluntary disclosures of federal environmental violations under its self-audit policies. The details of the eDisclosure system are largely consistent with what EPA presented during its June 2015 announcement and related webinars, as discussed in the June 2015 Thompson Hine Environmental Update, with a few important distinctions.

The new system may impact how voluntary disclosures are processed and whether disclosing parties receive the same level of closure as EPA provided under the prior system. In a reversal of longstanding policy, EPA has also eliminated the presumption that unresolved Audit Policy disclosures are exempt from information requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and in fact confirmed it will attempt to make most unresolved disclosures available shortly after the disclosure is made.  Continue...

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January 5, 2016 3:40 PM

WASHINGTON - Nominations are invited for inductees to the 2016 class of the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame, which honors those who have made significant contributions to developing, protecting and expanding access to government information.

Nominations will be accepted through Jan. 23, 2016, and should be made by e-mail. Nominations should include a statement of qualifications and links to supporting information, data or reports; and must include the name, e-mail and telephone contact information the nomination.

Please send nominations to Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute, at gpolicinski@newseum.org. (202-292-6290 for inquiries) The nominations will be reviewed by a selection committee drawn the FOI community and from members of the Hall.

The new honorees will be announced during the 2016 National FOI Day Conference, on Friday, March 11 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which will also recognize the 50th anniversary of the FOIA.

The right to know about the actions of government is an important part of America’s democratic heritage.  Journalists, advocacy groups, educators and researchers and individuals, along with legislators and federal administrators, have contributed to FOIA’s creation and implementation and are periodically are recognized in the Hall.  

The Hall of Fame was created in 1996 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act, and is maintained online by the Newseum Institute.

 Following the charter class, a new group has been installed every five years.

A list of those in the Hall, and information about its purpose, can be found at: http://www.newseuminstitute.org/initiatives/national-freedom-of-informat...

January 5, 2016 3:25 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 29, 2015

CONTACT: Katherine Garner, 850.224.4555

or katherine@floridafaf.org 

 

FLORIDA'S FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION ANNOUNCES WINNER OF THE 2015 PETE WEITZEL/FRIEND OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT AWARD

                 

The First Amendment Foundation is pleased to announce Barbara Jeffords Lemley, a Lake City resident, and Stew Lilker, publisher of the Columbia County Observer, as the recipients of the 2015 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award. 

"The determination and dedication of people like Barbara and Stew to hold a government agency accountable for its actions are at the core of our public records law, and we need more people like them to help us do what we do. To recognize them and their hard work with this award will hopefully encourage others to do the same," said First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen.

Lemley was profiled in an Associated Press story last March regarding her battle to gain access to public records from the Lake Shore Hospital Authority (LSHA). Lemley's first requests for public records were denied. Subsequent requests were heavily redacted, incomplete, or denied completely. 

Then Lemley was told she would have to pre-pay for any records sought, which meant driving to the authority's office, depositing as little as 30 cents, then returning another day to actually get the record requested. The authority's policy required citizen Lemley to give 24 hours notice of a records request, then limited record viewing to a single hour beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Lilker reported on this and other violations of open government laws by the hospital authority in his newspaper, the Columbia County Observer, and set up a separate webpage on how the authority was "Keeping the Public in the Dark" by denying records, holding meetings without an advance public agenda and refusing to make public copies of agenda items being voted on.

He also filed a lawsuit, Stewart Lilker vs. Lake Shore Hospital Authority, challenging the authority's policies. Lilker won. The authority appealed - and lost again. It's fight against the law costing taxpayers an estimated $300,000.

"This is the first time in the history of the award that a newspaper publisher and citizen have received the award and the vote by our board was unanimous," Petersen said.

The Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award was created in 1995 to recognize the significant contribution made by Pete Weitzel, former managing editor of the Miami Herald, and founder and past president of the First Amendment Foundation, in the area of open government. The Award is given annually to someone in Florida who has made a significant contribution to the cause of furthering open government. Past recipients of the award can be found on the Foundation's website, www.floridafaf.org.

The 2015 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award will be presented at the Foundation's annual Sunshine Recognition luncheon on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, at the Governor's Club in Tallahassee.

To sponsor the luncheon or purchase a table or individual tickets, please contact Katherine Garner at 850.224.4555 or via email at info@floridafaf.org or go to www.floridafaf.org/Sunshine_luncheon.

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January 5, 2016 11:09 AM

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking about open data at the coIN Loft in Wilmington as part of Delaware Innovation Week.

My talk focused on how Delawareans can help push state and local government to release more open data and, hopefully, adopt formal open data policies. Delaware already has a growing civic hacking community, and the turnout for Delaware Innovation Week shows that there is a deep and active developer community in the First State. The City of Wilmington appears to be moving closer to adopting open data, and there are currently some limited open data sets available from the State.  Continue...

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January 5, 2016 11:01 AM

If you’re looking for a city government with a solid open data strategy, the nation’s third-largest city is a good model to look at for best practices. In a recent workshop, Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology encouraged business owners and other residents to explore and play around with the city’s open data portal.

Created following an executive order in 2011, the open data portal now contains nearly 600 viewable, downloadable datasets from an employee salaries table—which is the most viewed—to one detailing the addresses of properties with problem landlords.  Continue...

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January 5, 2016 10:56 AM

On his last day in office, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued a ruling that said public officials can use their private cell phones to conduct public business, such as sending text messages.

The Dec. 30 ruling involved a dispute among former Louisville Water Co. executives while they were still running the city-owned water company and upholds the company's denial to its former top attorney, Barbara Dickens, who left the agency in May.  Continue...

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January 5, 2016 10:53 AM

In 2015, the Walker administration worked overtime to figure out new ways to undermine the state's traditions of open government.

First, you will recall, Governor Walker wanted to exempt the scandal-plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) from the open records law in the budget. Then, the Governor used made-up legal definitions to deny CMD's request for records related to his changes to the University of Wisconsin mission statement and the Wisconsin Idea, prompting our ongoing lawsuit. Continue...

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January 5, 2016 10:45 AM

Hillary Clinton’s top aide was closely involved in vetting a politically sensitive document requested under public information laws, according to emails from the Department of State released on Thursday.

Public records officials at the State Department sought clearance from Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, in 2012 before releasing a memo related to the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation program.  Continue...

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January 4, 2016 11:57 AM

While an effort to reform the nation's open records law failed to gain much traction in 2015 after a promising start, the Freedom of Information Act still quietly shaped much of the year's political landscape.

Reporters and transparency advocates used FOIA to unearth documents related to FBI surveillance, CIA spying on Congress and the State Department's handling of the 2012 Benghazi attack.  Continue...

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