FOI Advocate News Blog

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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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December 5, 2014 12:03 PM

Open records activists have launched a Twitter campaign urging Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., to lift a hold he placed on the FOIA Improvement Act.

The bipartisan companion bill was passed unanimously by the House in February and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it in November.

One senator shouldn't obstruct progress on making the federal government more transparent to the American people. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:56 AM

Your lame-duck Legislature is fiddling with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act again. No good can come of that.

Before they leave town this week, lawmakers with nothing to lose could be asked to vote on two bills, both of them designed to water down an already weak public records law.

Their aim is to make it harder for you to see what public officials are doing — on your behalf, with your tax dollars. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:39 AM

A long awaited Senate report on the CIA’s former “enhanced interrogation" techniques could be out by Monday.

Vice News reported Jason Leopold, who has a longstanding Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Obama administration over the so-called “torture report,” tweeted on Wednesday that the report should be out at the beginning of next week.

“Senate report on CIA interrogation program will be released MONDAY, govt atty just told my atty in my #FOIA case for the rpt,” he tweeted. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:32 AM

The Ann Arbor City Council went on record this week stating a preference for increased transparency when it comes to the release of public records.

The council voted unanimously to direct the city administrator to revise the city's Freedom of Information Act administrative policy to do just that.

The resolution sponsored by Council Members Sabra Briere, Jack Eaton and Sumi Kailasapathy notes the city administrator provided a draft of revisions to the city's policy for release of public records in early 2013. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:24 AM

Following this year’s state Supreme Court rulings that dramatically curtailed the public’s ability to follow the actions of public bodies, state senators have introduced legislation that could let some sunshine back in.

The court had said that public bodies, such as city councils, were not required to provide meeting agendas. The justices also ruled that autopsies were exempt from public disclosure because they were private medical records.

In September, a legislative panel heard testimony from the S.C. Press Association and others on the court’s rulings, along with ways to fix the Freedom of Information Act. Continue>>>
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December 5, 2014 11:21 AM

Once again, failure to follow the Freedom of Information Act, failure to provide responsive public records to the person requesting the records.

This is the 7th FOIA civil suit against Arcola Township.

You can read it below, but the main problem is that Arcola Township thinks they can do as they please, the law be damned. Continue>>>
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December 4, 2014 11:05 AM

Government procurement is a $9.5 trillion industry, and supplying goods and services to the government is a core business function for thousands of companies around the world. In the U.S., contracts signed by both parties are usually not published, and are only released if someone files what is known as a freedom-of-information request with the relevant agency.

That’s inappropriate. Citizens paid for the services; they should know what they’re buying. But it is also a loss to the private sector. Keeping contracts hidden increases the cost and risk of bidding on government tenders, and so businesses should be leading the charge on contract transparency.

We know firms want access to government contracts because they are willing to pay for it. In the U.S., the company DelTek processes freedom-of-information requests for government contracts as part of an effort to help its clients win more government work. It boasts a contracts database of more than 1.7 million entries. There are similar pay-access databases for oil, gas and mining contracts. If firms know what previous contracts look like, it will help them bid for new work or licenses—or avoid bidding if they can’t compete. Continue>>>
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December 4, 2014 11:03 AM

President Barack Obama signed a bill Wednesday that has the potential to curtail prolonged delays in the release of historical White House records.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest announced Wednesday afternoon that the "Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014" was among a set of bills Obama approved just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The legislation will end the practice of White House lawyers repeatedly extending the review of records of prior presidents that the National Archives has designated for release. Under the new law, the current president and affected former president have 60 business days to review records the Archives declares an intention to make public. That period can be extended 30 business days, but only once. Continue>>>
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December 4, 2014 10:50 AM

The Minnehaha County Commission Tuesday appointed a panel to review the county's election procedures, and after some debate commissioners decided the group's meetings should be open to the public.

They didn't have to be, the commission's assistant department head Robert Wilson told commissioners. Because the committee has no statutory authority, its proceedings do not fall under the state open meeting law. Only the final report it delivers to the commission is a public document, Wilson said.

Auditor Bob Litz and Commissioner Dick Kelly argued for the election review committee's meetings to be closed. They said it would encourage frank discussion, and Kelly added that closed meetings would not add fuel to an already highly-charged political debate about issues arising in the general election. He said, "I do believe in open government," but added "there has got to be open and frank discussion among committee members without the danger of it ending up a headline or a lead news story." Continue>>>
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December 4, 2014 10:45 AM

The Board of Assessors should not have discussed former assessor John Speidel’s employment the way it did in an April 7 executive session, a state office has found, calling it a “serious violation of the Open Meeting Law.”

Board members should have given 48 hours notice before discussing Speidel’s performance and should have allowed Speidel to be present at the meeting if he chose to be, according to the state Attorney General’s Division of Open Government.

The response comes in a letter delivered Tuesday to resident Christopher Loreti, who filed Open Meeting Law complaints against the board. Continue>>>
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December 4, 2014 10:41 AM

The District of Columbia’s Open Government Advisory Group may be only a month old but the 15-member group has already established bylaws and a working outline of short- and midterm projects for boosting transparency and accountability.

The first order of business will be evaluating and providing recommendations on improving the content and format of open-government plans submitted by dozens of the District’s agencies. The group will also prioritize which boards and commissions should stream their open meetings through a webcast, though the financial impact and captioning requirements have not been determined.

“I’m putting it out here for discussion in terms of how this committee goes about doing its work,” Brian Flowers, general counsel to the mayor and chairman of the D.C. Open Government Advisory Group, said at a Nov. 19 kickoff meeting. (You can watch a video archive of the meeting here. The second meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. EST) Continue>>>
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December 4, 2014 10:36 AM

In 1975, the Connecticut General Assembly unanimously approved the creation of the state’s Freedom of Information Act to fight secrecy in government. But for the recent election season, only 10 percent of candidates for state office signed a pledge to oppose weakening the law.

Of the 38 candidates who signed the pledge, 24 did not win election. Leaving 14 officials, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said they will bring a commitment to the Freedom of Information Act and public debate when they are sworn into office in January.

The only legislator from either New London County or Windham County to sign the pledge was Senator-elect Paul Formica, R-East Lyme. Continue>>>

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