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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May 13, 2016 6:06 PM

In a move toward greater transparency, arrest and booking data will henceforth be available online, the result of a collaboration between the Berkeley Police Department's Professional Standards Division and the city's IT Department.

The open data portal will enable the public to look at arrest and booking data over a 30-day period, according to a police department news release.

An Arrest Log provides information for adults arrested by Berkeley police while a Booking Log covers any law enforcement agency utilizing the Berkeley jail. Continue...

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May 13, 2016 5:58 PM

A state appellate court hinted Wednesday that it had little interest in expanding government secrecy in a case involving the public's right to know who supplies the lethal drugs Texas uses to execute convicted criminals.

A decision in favor of openness by the state's 3rd Court of Appeals could a have limited effect because the Texas Legislature passed a law last year requiring state prison officials to keep the identities of the drug makers secret.

The appellate judges, however, appeared more concerned about the broader question of when potential safety concerns should trump the public's right to know how the state is spending taxpayer money. Continue...

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May 13, 2016 5:50 PM

The city of Mesa faces paying more than twice its annual budget to settle a state Public Records Act dispute with its former mayor, Donna Zink.

Franklin County Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Spanner assessed a $353,000 penalty against the tiny farm city for 33 separate infractions of the state records law during a hearing Tuesday.

The Public Records Act requires public agencies to respond in a timely fashion to requests for public records or face financial penalties for violations. It is designed to empower citizens to monitor government. Continue...

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May 12, 2016 8:18 PM

A state appeals court today ordered the New York City Police Department to release information on the health risks of the unmarked X-ray vans that it uses to covertly detect explosives. '

But the panel overturned a lower court’s ruling that required the department to disclose records on when and where the vans had been used, its policies on van usage, or how much the vans cost, agreeing with the NYPD that concerns over terrorism outweighed the public interest.

For the past four years, ProPublica has sought information about the secretive NYPD counterterrorism program that uses the vans equipped with X-ray machines. The vans can drive alongside vehicles or buildings to find organic materials such as drugs and explosives that may be hidden inside. Continue...

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NYPD, ProPublica, X-ray Vans
May 12, 2016 8:16 PM

Five of Ohio’s public universities are putting their spending records online.

Ohio's state Treasurer Josh Mandel announced Tuesday that the universities will post their spending information on the state treasurer's online checkbook website next year. Miami, Bowling Green State, Central State, Wright State and Ohio universities are the first to join.

“Taxpayers, students, faculty and alumni have the right to know how money is being spent at universities,” Mandel told The Enquirer. “My goal is to empower the taxpayers to hold the public officials accountable.” Continue...

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May 12, 2016 8:13 PM

Colorado lawmakers in 2016 rejected an opportunity to bring the state’s open-records law into the 21st century.

They also decided that wage-law violations should remain “trade secrets” and that internal affairs files on judicial branch employees should remain confidential, which isn’t the case for other state government workers.

On matters affecting public information, the General Assembly did little during this year’s session to improve access. The most significant legislative win for government transparency doesn’t actually affect governments. Continue...

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May 12, 2016 8:11 PM

The Society of Professional Journalists and a host of other public-interest and media groups have weighed in on a high-profile public-records case now being considered by the California Supreme Court.

The lawsuit, appealed to the state high court by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was rejected by a state appeals court last year.

The plaintiffs are seeking access to bulk data collected by automated license plate readers, technology deployed by numerous law enforcement agencies that collects and stores information about vehicle locations. Continue...

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May 12, 2016 8:08 PM

'Kansas officials' emails about public business on private accounts or devices will be subject to public disclosure starting in July under a bill Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law Wednesday.

The law closes a big loophole in the Kansas Open Records Act . That decades-old law generally requires government records to be accessible to the public, but it hasn't specifically applied to officials' private email accounts or communications with private cellphones.

Legislators approved the measure after months of scrutiny of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as U.S. secretary of state. The issue also arose in Kansas following disclosures about Brownback and his budget director's use of private communications. Continue...

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May 11, 2016 3:18 PM

How’s Oregon’s public records law working for you?

A task force of the Oregon attorney general’s office wants to hear from residents who have used the state’s public records law to seek records from local or state government, whether large state agencies or small cities or school districts.

A public hearing — the task force’s second since it formed last October — will take place Monday at the University of ­Oregon. Residents also can email comments to the group. Continue...

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May 11, 2016 3:15 PM

With no discussion, a Senate committee late last week killed legislation that would have allowed the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to disclose whether a company has cheated its workers.

HB 16-1347 had received bipartisan support in the House, passing unanimously in committee and 47-17 on the floor. But the Republican-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee defeated it Friday on a 5-4 partisan vote.

“It’s frustrating,” said Rep. Jessie Danielson, the Wheat Ridge Democrat who introduced the bill. “They gave no reasons for voting against such a common-sense transparency measure.” Continue...

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May 11, 2016 3:07 PM

A federal law protecting driver's license data does not allow Wisconsin police departments to withhold driver information from accident reports, the Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

But whether that law might require such redaction in other kinds of reports would depend on what function police are serving by releasing the records, and whether the information was obtained directly from department of motor vehicle records, or merely verified with that information.

The 30-page ruling will likely trigger continued litigation and confusion over access to routine public records that Wisconsin authorities began to restrict in light of a failed class action 2010 lawsuit in Illinois filed under the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act, or DPPA. Continue...

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May 11, 2016 2:22 PM

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office resolved more than 3,330 requests from the public for help in obtaining public records and public meeting information last year.

The information was released in the Public Access Bureau’s annual report this spring. The report documents compliance statewide with the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA).

In 2015, the Public Access Bureau received 4,770 formal requests for assistance pursuant to FOIA and OMA. By comparison, the bureau received 4,032 requests in 2014 and 1,950 requests in 2010. Continue...

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