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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March 2, 2017 1:36 AM

Some of the animal welfare documents that were abruptly purged from a Department of Agriculture database early this month were restored last week, days after animal rights groups filed a lawsuit to make the records public again.

The documents that were restored to the database include inspection reports for research institutions and certain federal labs that work with animals. Similar reports on the treatment of animals at zoos, breeding operations and animal transporters — which represent the vast majority of facilities that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service oversees — are still unavailable.

The database is maintained by APHIS, in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.

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March 2, 2017 1:29 AM

A Mid-Missouri judge this week ruled that a man who recently won a transparency lawsuit against a law enforcement narcotics group can amend his suit to include allegations that Audrain County’s former sheriff had improperly altered documents.

Aaron Malin’s case against the East Central Missouri Task Force, which includes investigators from several eastern and Central Missouri law enforcement agencies, did not initially include allegations that Stuart Miller had changed documents he had previously released to Malin. Miller, who retired at the beginning of the year as Audrain County sheriff, testified at trial last year that he had erased some information from those documents, something that Malin and his attorney, Dave Roland, had not known.

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March 1, 2017 12:59 AM

Arkansas lawmakers are considering new secrecy provisions for the State Capitol Police, some attorney-client relationships and Arkansas Community Correction.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the proposals Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The bills are among at least 10 removing coverage of records under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Transparency concerns have been raised by the Arkansas Press Association, which represents the Democrat-Gazette and newspapers across the state.

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March 1, 2017 12:53 AM

North Hempstead residents can now precisely track how their tax dollars are spent, with the town’s recent launch of a comprehensive website showing years of its expenditures.

From auto equipment purchases to contracts awarded to vendors, residents can access online checkbooks dating from 2014 up to January 2017.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the website — northhempstead.com/opengov — is part of her administration’s ongoing effort to boost openness and transparency.

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March 1, 2017 12:48 AM

Plans are under way inside D.C. government to change the law in ways likely to disable the Office of Open Government (OOG). The D.C. Open Government Coalition testified February 23 at the annual performance oversight hearing on the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) that includes the OOG.

Proposals in the works at the board could harm the office, according to the Coalition’s government affairs committee chair, attorney Robert Becker. He reported on a text of a bill obtained by the Coalition and under consideration by D.C. officials.

The Council established the board, and the OOG as an independent office within it, in a larger ethics law that took effect in 2012. The board, under that law, appoints the director to a 5-year term (removable only for cause). The director is authorized to employ staff as needed to carry out the Office’s mandate to enforce the Open Meetings Act and oversee the D.C. Freedom of Information Act.

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February 28, 2017 12:32 AM

Federal immigration agencies can request that local law enforcement hold individuals for 48 hours after taken into custody, if subject to deportation. Recently, the state supreme court ruled those immigration hold requests are exempt from public records law.

In Voces De La Frontera v. Clarke, 2017 WI 16 (Feb. 24, 2017), a Wisconsin Supreme Court majority (4-2) ruled that the “immigration detainer” requests that the Milwaukee County sheriff’s office received from the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are “statutorily exempt from disclosure” under state public records law.

The majority’s decision reversed lower court rulings, including a three-judge appeals court decision that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. was required to produce unredacted copies of the immigration detainer requests to an immigrant rights group.

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February 28, 2017 12:26 AM

Proposed last-minute changes to to Sen. John Kefalas' open records bill could remove swaths of currently available information from disclosure, open records advocates say.

The bill, which has been set for hearing twice and twice been delayed, will be heard at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday by the Senate's State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

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February 24, 2017 11:59 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia filed the first of a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests Wednesday with the Elkins Police Department to investigate the former police chief's controversial memo. The memo referred to residents as "cockroaches" and read " I want them harassed if you know they are a cockroach!"

The ACLU executive director says they were "shocked" to learn about the memo. The statement reads: "It appears to show a police department that has established a written policy of recklessly violating the US Constitution, using physical violence of intimidate residents and fostering a culture meant to dehumanize people."

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February 24, 2017 11:49 PM

An appeals court weighed arguments Wednesday about whether Florida's Sunshine Law was violated before regulators last year approved a 14.5 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal did not issue a ruling Wednesday. But its decision will have high stakes: A Leon County circuit judge said in November that the rate increase should be rejected because of Sunshine Law violations.

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February 24, 2017 11:35 PM

The City of Atlanta decided to release 1.47 million pages of documents to the press and public—on paper. Mayor Kasim Reed announced the release in a February 9 press conference, after weeks of dithering over open records requests by local media regarding a federal investigation into more than $1 million in bribes for city contracts.

Reed, who said he made the decision in the name of “transparency,” may well have set some sort of open records record, according to government accountability experts. “It’s the most I can recall,” said Joey Senat, associate professor at the Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications and author of a book on open records and other areas of media law, in reference to the sheer number of pages.

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February 24, 2017 3:15 AM

A state judge has ordered Doña Ana County government to pay more than $90,000 to an Alamogordo-based pet advocacy group for failing to hand over public records in a timely way.

Alamogordo nonprofit Animal Village NM sued the county in late 2015, alleging officials had not provided public records in response to a request made under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, one of the state's key government-transparency laws. The lawsuit sought compliance with the state law.

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legal fees, New Mexico
February 24, 2017 3:12 AM

bill that would make deliberately ignoring citizens' Freedom of Information Act requests a firing offense died in a state Senate committee Monday.

The Senate General Laws committee also voted to shield records related to bingo and other charitable gambling supplies, as well as making confidential engineering and construction plans for single-family houses filed with local building officials to ensure compliance with state building codes.

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