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 9, 2011 12:58 PM

From Quad-City Times:

CLINTON (IA) — A group of Clinton residents is working with the American Civil Liberties Union to gain access to minutes of closed city council meetings where the city’s $4.5 million settlement of a whistle-blower lawsuit was discussed.

Citizens for Open Government was formed last month by a group of people who supported the efforts of two candidates for city office who were seeking to have minutes of the closed-session meetings made public, said Marty Nischke, chairman of the group.

December 8, 2011 11:10 AM

From Texas Watchdog:

The state Attorney General’s open records division launches an online appeals system in February, which will require parties to cough up $30 if they want to use the system to respond to a government body’s appeal of an open records request.

The office says it will no longer accept challenges to public information requests or responses via fax or email beginning in January. Taxpayers, who used to be able to use email, will now have to pay postage fees if they want to go around the online system. Looming service cutbacks and price increases at the U.S. Postal Service impose even more cost and delay on the public’s quest for its own information.

December 7, 2011 6:37 PM

From WashingtonPost Local:

The revelation in a court filing that Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi and a top aide regularly used personal e-mail accounts to conduct government business so as to be “non-FOIA-ble” — that is, not subject to the Freedom of Information Act — has touched a nerve in local media circles.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) was questioned aggressively on the matter at his news conference this morning, and he said he does not support members of his administration using private e-mail accounts for government purposes. His attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan, said in a statement Tuesday that the city “needs to make such a policy clear and in writing.”

December 7, 2011 6:32 PM

From Boston.com:

WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of e-mails authored or received by Cabinet secretaries in the last three Republican gubernatorial administrations were automatically wiped off state computers after the officials left office, destroying a huge trove of public records about major decisions of state government.

Computer systems erased the e-mails from the administrations of Acting Governor Jane Swift and Governors Paul Cellucci and Mitt Romney because state officials did not store the contents of their accounts by backing them up on central computers, according to state officials. In the case of the Romney administration, the automatic deletions occurred despite state guidelines that were updated in 2004 that require certain electronic records be preserved.

emails deleted
December 7, 2011 6:27 PM

From DelawareOnline:

The Delaware Department of Labor violated the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to release records about companies that violated labor laws, the Attorney General's Office has determined.

The News Journal sought the records and construction site visit logs of labor law officers to see which companies were investigated for allegations of workplace fraud and not paying the prevailing wage rates on public works projects in 2010 and 2011.

Attorney General's decision (PDF).

FOIA, public records
December 7, 2011 6:17 PM

From San Diego City Beat:

Mel Shapiro just won a legal settlement, but forgive the 84-year-old if he doesn’t look ecstatic about it.

The battle began on March 10, the day San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis formally announced her candidacy for mayor of San Diego. A City Hall watchdog, Shapiro immediately filed a request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA)—a sort of citizen’s subpoena—to find out how effectively Dumanis’ office has investigated corruption and fraud perpetrated by politicians.

December 7, 2011 1:42 PM

From Sunlight Foundation blog:

As part of its Open Government Directive, the Obama Administration took steps to make a wide variety of federal data publicly available online. The Open Government Progress Report, released in December 2009 lists open government projects and transparency milestones that support the goals of the OGD. Included among these are a number of important data-sets.

These data-sets have been utilized by journalists, bloggers, organizations, and citizens. They have informed investigative stories and think tank reports, contributed to unique and useful visualizations, inspired projects dedicated to helping the American public make better use of data, and helped to shine sunlight on previously hidden areas of government.

December 7, 2011 1:38 PM

From HuffingtonPost:

The Better Government Association has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department in an effort to compel the release of plainclothes officer deployment data the department has refused to make public, citing safety concerns to circumvent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) transparency requirements.

The BGA requested documents showing where tactical units were deployed earlier this year, part of an effort to investigate officer placement and evaluate how often tactical units were operating outside their assigned districts, according to a press release issued by the watchdog agency.

December 6, 2011 11:58 AM

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) is seeking candidates who are interested in joining our organization as its Executive Director.

TCOG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and non-partisan alliance of media, citizen and professional groups working to educate Tennesseans about their right to know about the affairs of their government as set out in the Tennessee constitution and Tennessee’s “sunshine” laws, including the open meetings and public records laws.

Our purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse of information on problems and solutions in the “open government” arena at the state and local level.

TCOG seeks to keep citizens, media and public officials informed about developments and threats to these laws, through projects, and programs -- with an understanding that the best way to preserve and improve access to public business is through research and education.

This position currently requires an average of 30 hours per week – with more time required during the state legislative session and study group meetings and less time the rest of the year.

The optimal job candidate will have:

•  a bachelors degree and experience that provides a working knowledge of the Tennessee public records and open meetings laws, court precedents and relevant opinions of the Attorney General. Needs to be able to advise citizens and reporters on about these statutes and opinions without presenting this information as legal advice;

•  the skills necessary to collaborate with a wide range of groups and individuals;

•  the ability to organize and maintain a system to identify threats to open government, including monitoring proposed legislation, legal developments, statewide news coverage and calls from citizens and journalists who inquire about problems;

•  the ability to successfully seek funding through grants and contributions and to coordinate fundraising activities with TCOG board members and other supporters to support a level of services the Board of Directors determines appropriate;

•  the capacity to develop and maintain a communications system that keeps the public, TCOG board, TCOG Advisory Committee and TCOG partners up to date on developments affecting open government. This includes writing and editing skills needed to produce op-ed and educational pieces, help maintain a website, and use social media;

•  the ability to manage the business affairs of the organization, ensuring that all administrative and regulatory filings are completed on time to protect the group’s 501(c)(3) tax status. These include the IRS 990 tax return, corporation annual report and Charitable Solicitations permit with the Secretary of State, and filings with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.

•  the ability to respond to calls for information and other assistance from journalists and citizens, making it clear that guidance provided does not constitute legal advice. Track and report on those calls.

A letter of application and resume should be emailed as a PDF or similar format to tncog@comcast.net by December 15, 2011.

A PDF of the announcement is here.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC.

December 5, 2011 6:14 PM

From CT News Junkie:

A lawyer for the state Freedom of Information Commission abandoned an argument his office had been making for the past three years when he got to the Supreme Court on Monday, confusing the Supreme Court Justices and the man who filed the FOI complaint.

Up until Monday, the case had been expected to be the first time the Supreme Court would consider whether public entities can use an exemption in the state’s freedom of information statutes to withhold trade secrets.

December 5, 2011 6:06 PM

From Your Houston News:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today opened the 2011 Open Government Conference with a keynote address highlighting the Office of the Attorney General's successful defense of the state's Open Meetings Act and ongoing efforts to foster transparency and openness in government. Attorney General Abbott also introduced conference attendees to the OAG's new Electronic Filing System for open records ruling requests.

"There's perhaps no clearer sign of a healthy democracy than a government that keeps its information and its meetings accessible to the people it serves," Attorney General Abbott said. "Public trust is fostered when citizens can find out what their government is doing. Texas open government laws make that knowledge possible."

December 5, 2011 6:02 PM

From O'Reilly's Radar:

As 2011 comes to an end, there are 28 international open data platforms in the open government community. By the end of 2012, code from new "Data.gov-in-a-box" may help many more countries to stand up their own platforms. A partnership between the United States and India on open government has borne fruit: progress on making the open data platform Data.gov open source.

In a post at the WhiteHouse.gov blog, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel (@StevenVDC) and federal CTO Aneesh Chopra (@AneeshChopra) explained more about how Data.gov is going global:

As part of a joint effort by the United States and India to build an open government platform, the U.S. team has deposited open source code — an important benchmark in developing the Open Government Platform that will enable governments around the world to stand up their own open government data sites.

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