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/.
Taxpayers fund the operations of private prisons in Oklahoma, just as they do state and federal ones — but they largely don’t have access to the same information and records about those private facilities.
A new report argues that private prison operators should be subject to the same level of scrutiny and transparency as state- and federal-run prisons.
According to a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, private prisons avoid greater public scrutiny because they are not subject to the same federal Freedom of Information Act and state open records law requirements as government-run prisons. Continue>>>
A proposal that would allow governments to charge a fee for time-intensive public records requests would restrict access to information and undermine open government, a media attorney told lawmakers Thursday.
"Bottom line is public records in Arizona belong to the people. They don't belong to government officials, they don't belong to government bureaucrats and they don't belong to public bodies," said Chris Moeser, who represented Phoenix Newspapers Inc. and KPNX-TV before the House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure.
But René G. Guillen Jr., legislative director for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said some municipalities are overwhelmed by the number of requests combined with the requirement under state law to fulfill them promptly. Continue>>>
Greater transparency in Maryland government contracting is the goal of legislation that would provide more information about each contract on a state website.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee is considering a bill that would pour $1.4 million into the growth of the website that allows the public to view payments made to state contractors.
The Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency website (spending.dbm.maryland.gov) under the Maryland Department of Budget and Management is a listing of all payments greater than $25,000 that state agencies have made to contractors from the years 2008-13. The public can see the amount the agency paid, the year, and the zip code where the vendor is based. Continue>>>
The Shenandoah County School Board responded to recent news about Freedom of Information Act requests for employee salary data at its meeting Thursday night.
In December, District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey had asked for detailed salary data of school employees and did not want to pay the $700 price that Division Superintendent Jeremy Raley had quoted for producing the data. The price was said to be proportionate to the time and resources used to fulfill the request. Bailey's request failed to draw support from the county's board of supervisors.
School board Chairman Richard Koontz opened the meeting by addressing the headlines and comments regarding the price.
"There's been a lot of publicity and a lot of talk about the ability to get information from the School Board and I just want to make sure we all understand the facts and understand how we do things when it comes to getting information out," he said. "We have always done this the same way. We have policies in place to handle requests for information." Continue>>>
“Sunshine is the strongest antiseptic … its rays may penetrate areas previously closed,” so opined the late-Hon. Robert H. Miller, a former chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, as he explained in a court case why government records must be open under penalty of law.
His sage admonition of 30 years ago remains true today. For one need only look to current events in North Korea, for example, where a tourist can easily find him or herself whisked away by state police and accused of any manner of offense, including crimes subject to the death penalty, with the only explanation given that the defendant is a spy. No supporting information. Nothing.
And we Americans scratch our heads and ask how this can be. Alas, we need look no further than Eastern and Central Europe for like examples of secret proceedings that were routine in the former Soviet Bloc countries and Yugoslavic republics. Continue>>>
The state House of Representatives took strong, progressive action last week on two bills that improve citizen access to public information. Now they’re on to the Senate, where they deserve passage and enactment.
House Bill 2015 would require that meeting agendas be posted online by public agencies at least 24 hours before a meeting. It passed the House by a vote of 85-13. Rep. Brad Hawkins (R-Wenatchee) voted in favor of the bill; Rep. Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee) voted no. Both represent the 12th District, including the Methow Valley.
The bill provides exceptions for government entities without websites or with fewer than 10 full-time employees. The Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents more than 100 community newspapers in the state, supported the legislation. Continue>>>
Probation officers asked lawmakers Wednesday to consider preventing the release of their employment records to people who are under court supervision or incarcerated in the state’s prisons.
Several officers testified at a hearing of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, which has raised a bill that would add an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for probation officers, shielding their personnel and medical records from inmates and people under court supervision.
Sara Basford, a probation officer working out of the Judicial Branch’s Danbury office, told the committee that an inmate obtained her personnel records in 2012. She said her former home address—where her mother still resides—was released along with her records as well as enough information to piece together her Social Security number. Continue>>>
Some city of Beaufort officials say they will consider formal training to teach board and commission members about public-meeting and public-records law.
The need for instruction was made starkly evident when the Historic District Review Board violated the S.C. Freedom of Information Act by adjourning a recent meeting and continuing to discuss board business with a quorum present.
Training is a welcomed possibility, but it raises a question: Who will conduct it? Continue>>>
With a deadline for bills to pass one chamber of the Legislature looming next week, there has been little action on several measures meant to create more transparency in government.
A proposal to open judicial records outlining probable cause for search and arrest warrants that initially appeared to have bipartisan support may be watered down considerably after a few prosecutors objected.
A bill to make the Kansas Open Records Act apply to certain nonprofit marketing and economic development agencies that receive public funds has been shifted to another committee, with no hearing scheduled. Continue>>>
Governor Bill Haslam on Thursday announced the launch of “Transparent Tennessee,” an overhaul of the state’s transparency website to offer more user-friendly information online to Tennessee taxpayers.
Transparent Tennessee is a one-stop shop for searching public data on how state dollars are spent. The site includes a searchable checkbook with more interactive data related to state agency expenses, vendor payments and travel reimbursements.
“A state government that is accountable to Tennessee taxpayers is an important part of being customer-focused, efficient and effective,” Governor Haslam said. “The advanced function of this website will allow citizens more access to information about how state dollars are spent.” Continue>>>
Connecticut is one of 41 states to earn a failing grade from health advocates for lacking public information about the quality of care provided by doctors.
"Consumers should be able to find out if their local primary care physician is delivering good quality care without having to go through hoops," said Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute in Newtown, which published the report. "Connecticut has no public reporting of physician quality."
The "State Report Card on Transparency of Physician Quality Information" scored states on many factors, including the number of doctors rated, whether the ratings included information about clinical outcomes and consumer experiences, and how easy it was to access information online. Continue>>>