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

October 21, 2016 11:14 AM

After one county commissioner released confidential records to protest county meetings with utility companies, the rest of the commissioners are left scratching their heads.

Commissioner Sean Conway recently released emails, which detailed the county’s attorney giving the board legal advice before a planned September meeting with Xcel Energy, alleging the meeting was a kind of unethically private correspondence called ex parte communication. The emails went public this week when a conservative blog published them.

“If there truly was an issue, I don’t know why he was at (that) meeting,” Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said, noting Conway didn’t seem concerned enough to skip the meeting. Conway is known for missing meetings he disagrees with. As an example, he did not attend a county training this summer in Breckenridge, stating the travel expense was excessive.


October 21, 2016 11:03 AM

A new state law that requires banks to report and secure abandoned houses has been hailed as sweeping legislation for combating blight, but the most sweeping aspect of the law may be a section that keeps the information secret.

The so-called “zombie properties” law requires the Department of Financial Services to keep a registry of vacant properties. But DFS must treat the information as confidential, exempt it from the state Freedom of Information Law and restrict access even to elected officials.


October 21, 2016 11:00 AM

The year 2016 has found us in the thick of major policy debates. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana is playing a leadership role in helping determine the future direction of the state on critical issues concerning government budgets, taxes and economic development. PAR’s analysis, commentary, public outreach and participation on several key task force initiatives are making an important contribution toward shaping the discussion and building consensus for meaningful recommendations for positive, long-term change.


October 20, 2016 12:21 PM

A lawsuit argued in Montpelier on Tuesday will decide whether a key part of Vermont’s health care reform efforts is subject to the state’s public records law.

Vermont Information Technology Leaders is technically a private nonprofit organization. It’s better known by its acronym, VITL, and it’s the organization that’s responsible for developing the Vermont Health Information Exchange. That’s a system that is designed to allow different doctors with different electronic medical records software to easily share information about patients. And VITL built that system with guidance from the Legislature and millions of dollars from taxpayers.

That’s why citizen advocate Steven Whitaker says VITL should be subject to the state’s public records law. He argued in Washington County Superior Court that even though it’s a private nonprofit, it meets the legal standard of being a “functional equivalent” of a government agency.


October 20, 2016 12:19 PM

Want to know which state agency buys the most pizza? Maybe you're more curious about whether your favorite restaurant passed its last inspection, the traffic counts on your road or the most popular subjects at your local library.

That's just a sample of the information that state officials say will be searchable, sortable and, in some cases, mappable come Wednesday evening when Gov. Jack Markell unveils Delaware's new open data portal – an online clearinghouse of raw statistics and other nonpersonal information collected by state agencies.

The 30 datasets also included in the launch will cover topics such as state contracts, toxic releases, cancer mortality rates, licensed child care providers and even the most popular baby names in Delaware.


October 20, 2016 12:14 PM

Over the next few weeks, many of you will be seeing your present (and/or prospective) state legislators and senators cross your towns. They are in the midst of campaigns. They are telling you and your voters why they should be elected to fill seats in Jefferson City beginning in January.

They will tell you what is wrong with the way government is run. It’s no surprise they believe there is a lot “wrong” with the way our state government is being run. State Auditor Nicole Galloway also believes there is wrong in our state legislature, and she recently released two reports including, among other issues, what she sees as violations of the state Sunshine Law.

The 19-page report on the audit of the House of Representatives and the 17-page report on the audit of the Senate detail areas with Sunshine Law deficiencies. First, the reports focus on records held by the House of Representatives and by the Senate. Both legislative bodies are entities “created by statute,” and therefore the records retained by both bodies are inherently “records” subject to the Sunshine Law. All such records are “open” unless the House or Senate defines what records are specifically closed. All public bodies are required to do that. They need a policy defining that a certain record is closed; otherwise, it is an open record. The House of Representatives has no such policy, the state auditor found, and neither does the Missouri Senate.


October 19, 2016 11:02 AM

The General Services Administration is working to create a place where data providers can go to see if their data fits into a set of standards others might be already using.

This new effort, the recently announced U.S. Data Federation, is a step forward in the open data movement toward not just publishing data on but also coordinating it among specific topics to be interoperable and standardized, experts say.


October 19, 2016 11:00 AM

After a protracted mediation process and with the clock winding down to a Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission hearing, Newtown Board of Ethics Chair Jacqueline Villa admitted to violating the state FOI Act on two separate occasions, both involving illegal executive sessions — meetings with members of her board closed to press and citizens that should have been conducted in public.


October 19, 2016 10:56 AM

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas will host an Open Government Seminar in Denton in November featuring training in public meetings and public records laws.

The non-profit FOI Foundation, in cooperation with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office and the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT, will offer the one-day seminar on Wednesday, Nov. 16. It is designed for government employees, journalists, attorneys and members of the general public interested in the Texas Public Information Act and Texas Open Meetings Act.


October 18, 2016 4:24 PM

In a decision First Amendment experts have dubbed “outrageous,” a Contra Costa Superior Court judge jailed a San Ramon man for writing about his divorce on the internet — even though his writings were based on material publicly available in court files.

The judge, Bruce C. Mills, insisted in his decision that “matters that are put into court pleadings and brought up in oral argument before the court do not become public thereby” — a position that lawyers say fundamentally misunderstands the nature of court records.


October 18, 2016 4:03 PM

The Anchorage Police Department is joining 100 other police departments around the country to provide more data and information to their respective communities.

APD announced Friday it’s participating in the White House Police Data Initiative.

Lieutenant Jack Carson says the aim is to increase transparency within the Anchorage Police Department.


October 18, 2016 4:01 PM

2,473 days after President Barack Obama issued an Open Government Directive, half of the 15 Cabinet agencies of the United States have not complied with the most basic aspect of the executive order: publishing an open government plan on their open website.

Eight agencies have not published a new plan, as required every two years: The Departments of Treasury, Interior, Commerce, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. Six have: the Departments of State, Justice, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Transportation and Education. One, the Department of Defense, has claimed to publish a new plan but has a link to the 2014 version.


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