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

April 28, 2015 12:12 PM

The Illinois House on Friday passed HB 3932, legislation that would require private campus police to release the same information as municipal police.

The bill — introduced in February by state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and co-sponsored by state Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-26) — passed unanimously.

The bill was inspired by community concerns about the University of Chicago Police Department’s (UCPD) practices, according to Currie, who told the Herald last month that the university State’s Attorney’s office were weighing in on the bill. Continue>>>

April 28, 2015 12:07 PM

When it comes to providing information to the public, 14 out of 21 U.S. government agencies receive poor marks for responding to records requests, according to a study published online Friday by researchers at Syracuse University.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at SU asked for copies of the electronic files the federal agencies use to keep track of requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

But after sending identical requests Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 to the 21 federal agencies, only seven have fully complied by making public usable data, the TRAC report said Friday. Continue>>>

April 28, 2015 12:06 PM

At a public meeting in Oakland, California, early in 2014, an analyst with the city's Public Ethics Commission proposed the idea of building an app that would help residents understand who actually puts money into campaigns at the local level.

Five months later, after hundreds of hours of research and development, the city's tech-savvy civic advocacy group, OpenOakland, launched an app called Open Disclosure, which makes obscure and complex campaign finance data intelligible to average citizens. Their process is described in greater depth in Government Technology's article, "Oakland App Sheds Light on Campaign Finance."

Oakland's Open Disclosure is one of many user-friendly applications being developed across the country that transform individuals' ability to meaningfully participate in government. Continue>>>

April 27, 2015 12:30 AM

In an era where the government collects more information than ever before, the importance of maintaining public access to that information becomes a bigger concern with each passing year.

That point isn’t lost on U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. Serving as a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee — in her freshman term, it should be noted — she has paid particular attention to the Freedom of Information Act, the venerable 50-year-old law that requires the public disclosure of records held by the federal government.

Hirono last year co-sponsored the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which would require federal agencies to make FOIA records available for inspection in an electronic format, limit agencies’ ability to charge fees if they foot drag on FOIA requests and establish a legal presumption in favor of disclosure, among other things. Continue>>>

April 27, 2015 12:26 AM

In another sign of the increased attention being paid to the Rialto Square Theatre, the organization’s Freedom of Information Act officer has resigned because she does not have time to keep up with the demand for documents.

We are getting hit with FOIAs almost every day,” Rialto board member Vicki Murphy said at a meeting Wednesday. “It’s to the point where it’s overwhelming for the entire staff.”

Murphy, who also served as the FOIA officer until Wednesday, said two Rialto staff members are working as many as 35 hours a week dealing with public requests for information. Continue>>>

April 27, 2015 12:20 AM

DeFuniak Springs City Councilman Kermit Wright really, really, really doesn’t like Florida’s open-government, or sunshine, laws. And he doesn’t mind saying so. “The sunshine law is a communist plot straight out of Stalin,” he told the Daily News’ Tom McLaughlin the other day. “I don’t like it or anything that restricts free speech. It’s against everything I stand for.”

Mr. Wright was commenting on a former police captain’s lawsuit alleging sunshine law violations in DeFuniak Springs. There’s no reason to believe that Wright, who was elected in 2011 and recently re-elected, has broken any laws. But his assertion that open-government requirements are a commie plot begs for a response.

We suspect the thugs who ran Josef Stalin’s Russia had no use for open meetings, open records and transparent decision-making. Soviet tyranny operated amid secrecy, not openness. It’s nonsense to think that Stalin — or Khrushchev or Brezhnev or any of Russia’s other hard-liners from the old days — begat today’s sunshine laws. Continue>>>

April 27, 2015 12:17 AM

Akron City Council often flouts rules designed to allow the public to follow city government and weigh in on proposals before they become law.

Akron's city charter requires legislation to be posted online by noon Friday, in advance of Monday City Council meetings, to give residents the weekend to review proposals. But council regularly blows by the deadline, and sometimes legislation is changed or rewritten hours before it's voted into law, without any opportunity for members of the public to respond.

The process is exacerbated by council's habit of suspending rules that require reading legislation three times before passage. More often than not, legislation is either passed after one reading or are bundled with other pieces in what is known as a consent agenda and approved without discussion by a single vote. Continue>>>

April 27, 2015 12:14 AM

A Freedom of Information Act request from the Sunlight Foundation has turned into federal policy on agency data holdings, the foundation reported.

Earlier this month, the Office of Management and Budget posted updated guidance to the Project Open Data GitHub that instructs agencies to "include all 'non-public' data assets in their [Public Data Listing], in addition to the 'public' and 'restricted' data assets that have long been required," according to an announcement from the foundation. The update also requires agencies to explain their reasons for any non-public designations and redactions in the metadata.

"Essentially, this reframes the PDL to be a public version of the full [enterprise data inventory]," OMB senior analyst Jamie Berryhill wrote in the GitHub posting. "Because the only difference between an agency's full EDI and the agency's PDL will be the existence of any needed redactions, agencies no longer need to submit an EDI to OMB unless their PDL contains any redactions." Continue>>>

April 27, 2015 12:11 AM

The head of a local open government group called on Governor Markell to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for information about a "secret" state email account.

Delaware Coalition for Open Government president John Flaherty told WDEL News the Freedom of Information Act itself requires transparency on the part of elected officials conducting government business.

"It talks about that public business be performed in an open and public manner, and unless it's specifically excluded, public documents like emails are part of the public record, and they should be disclosed," said Flaherty. Continue>>>

April 24, 2015 12:14 PM

An immigration attorney accusing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of a “Kafkaesque” failure to comply with a document request on Tuesday urged a Louisiana federal court to order the agency to hand over the documents he says he needs to properly represent his client in deportation proceedings.

Michael W. Gahagan, an attorney at The Immigration Law Firm of New Orleans, says in his summary judgment motion that USCIS cannot show that it has conducted a legally adequate search and that it hasn’t improperly withheld agency records. Gahagan had initially requested one document — a receipt notice for USCIS Form I-485 — an application to register permanent residence or adjust status for his client Lloyd Patterson, but instead received a “document dump” of 509 pages of unrelated information, he says.

Gahagan says that amid that dump, he noticed the USCIS failed to hand over 33 responsive pages within 20 days as part of his Freedom of Information Act request. The agency had indicated it referred the documents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but he said he’s skeptical. Continue>>>

April 24, 2015 12:09 PM

The city of Cincinnati says it is enhancing transparency by sharing the city’s data with the general public in a new way.

Open Data Cincinnati will allow anyone to browse through various datasets of information collected by the city to document how the government operates, officials said at an announcement Wednesday.

"The city believes giving the data to the public will encourage residents to help come up with creative tools to engage, improve and serve the community. The long-term vision is for the new portal to improve customer service, increase accountability and stimulate economic activity through data sharing," the city said in a news release. Continue>>>

April 24, 2015 12:05 PM

The House GOP met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss their strategy regarding a possible expansion of Medicaid. The move has raised the ire of the Democrats and open government advocates, but it seems there’s very little that can be done.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) says the House Republican caucus met Tuesday morning to discuss the history of LIP, or low income pool funding.

“Really more than anything it was a history lesson,” he said, “explaining to our members what we have behind us.” Continue>>>

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