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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April 19, 2017 12:26 AM

Legislation that would prohibit politicians from using their campaign finance funds for personal use was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant Tuesday in his state Capitol office.

When the 2017 session began in January, the bill was labeled as a priority by both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate.

Efforts were made to pass similar legislation during the 2016 session, but it was killed in the House. Mississippi was one of a handful of states where politicians could spend their campaign finance funds on personal items.

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April 19, 2017 12:23 AM

A woman was honored Friday for her pursuit of keeping her local government open to the public.

The Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government presented its 2017 Friend of Open Government award to Debbie Miller of Independence, Kansas.

The group says Miller has pressed her local government for openness over the past several years. They say one instance, when she pressed for a copy of the form the city uses to evaluate the city manager's job performance, stood out to them.

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April 17, 2017 11:24 PM

The state attorney's office is now investigating an alleged sunshine law violation at a Suncoast charter school.

This follows an increasingly tense dispute between the school and parents of a former student.

Island Village Montessori School is a remote campus off Clark road. For three years, Jennifer and Jeffrey Buck--parents of 2nd grader Cooper Buck--say they poured time and energy into the school.

"We were a lovely loving family. We planted trees. We loved that school," Jeffrey Buck said. "We loved everything about it and what we did hit a nerve."

That "nerve" Buck is referring to was not one particular incident, but a series of conflicts with the school.

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April 17, 2017 11:21 PM

Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed into law a bill that allows the public to know if an employer steals wages from his or her workers.

Democratic Rep. Jessie Danielson's measure includes these wage violations under Colorado's Open Records Act.

The law, signed Thursday, allows citizens to find out if they're doing business with, or considering a job with, an offender.

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April 17, 2017 11:14 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Tuesday demanding information about President Donald Trump’s executive orders restricting immigration and travel from Muslim-majority nations.

Filed jointly with ACLU affiliates in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Alaska, the suit demands that the regional U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Portland, Oregon, release documents related to the on-the-ground implementation of the orders, the first of which Trump signed on Jan. 27. ACLU affiliates have coordinated in filing such lawsuits against Customs and Border Protection offices in 13 states nationwide.

The ACLU first filed an FOIA request on Feb. 2 seeking documents — including text messages, voicemails, emails, directives and training documents — related to the implementation of the orders at airports across the U.S. They are now suing because “the government has failed to substantively respond” to the request.

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April 14, 2017 10:17 PM

The family of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed teen killed by police in the Bronx, said on Wednesday they filed a lawsuit against the NYPD after the department didn’t comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.

The filing came on what would have been Graham’s 24th birthday.

Graham was 18 when he was killed in February 2012 after former police officer Richard Haste chased him into his Bronx apartment and shot him as he tried to flush marijuana down the toilet. Haste said he believed Graham was armed, but no gun was found.

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April 14, 2017 10:15 PM

A judge has ruled that Arkansas State Police public information officer, Bill Sadler, violated the Freedom of Information Act.

Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor found Sadler had committed five civil violations of the FOIA law when he relied on a "blanket police" and failed to give valid reasons for not releasing dashcam videos.

Judge Tabor ordered those videos be released Monday in five cases being overseen by attorney W. Whitfield Hyman.

Hyman sued Sadler for rejecting his FOIA requests on the ground that they were exempt as part of an ongoing investigation.

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April 14, 2017 10:09 PM

President Donald Trump’s administration announced Friday that the White House won’t release records of its visitors, raising new concerns from transparency advocates.

The decision not to voluntarily disclose White House visitor logs is a break from the policy of former President Barack Obama’s administration, even though Trump had called his predecessor the “least transparent president.”

White House communications director Michael Dubke framed the decision not to disclose who visits the president as resulting from the “national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”

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April 13, 2017 10:52 PM

Residents of New Mexico may be none the wiser when it comes to information about independent political expenditures and everyday spending by lobbyists after key transparency measures were vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. At the same time, a long list of anti-transparency initiatives designed to restrict access to government information floundered during this year’s 60-day legislative session.

“Nothing passed that would undermine the public’s access to public records and public meetings,” said Peter St. Cyr, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and a former investigative reporter.

The defeat of a proposal to make more information available about so-called dark money political donations drew broad criticism, with backers including prominent Democrats and local and national policy groups expressing disappointment.

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April 13, 2017 10:50 PM

Proponents of a bill intended to make Colorado public records easier to analyze fear the University of Colorado is manipulating the bill to make records more difficult to obtain.

Senate Bill 40 concerns public access to government files, or the Colorado Open Records Act. The bill's original intent is to ensure digital records requested are provided in a searchable format.

For example, if a member of the public wants to see a public database, they could receive that file in a format such as an Excel spreadsheet that would allow them to analyze the data rather than a PDF document, which just shows a static printout of the data.

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April 13, 2017 10:45 PM

Education is a $1.1 trillion industry in America, one requiring vigilant public oversight – oversight that increasingly is frustrated when answers to simple questions are concealed behind an impenetrable wall of “student privacy.”

Ask a public university or a school district anything about any issue of public importance – sexual harassment by employees, crime on campus, athlete recruiting scandals – and you can expect to hear: “We can’t tell you anything because of FERPA.” Even when they know it’s not true.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a well-intentioned federal law requiring schools and colleges to maintain the confidentiality of “education records,” has been distorted by educational institutions into a catch-all excuse to conceal wrongdoing and mismanagement.

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April 12, 2017 7:19 PM

Boston wants to highlight the increased potential of its overhauled open data portal, Analyze Boston, and is doing so by hosting an open data competition for technologists.

Analyze Boston is a new and enhanced portal that aims to make the abundance of open data sets the city releases more relevant and accessible to everyday residents. The Analyze Boston Data Challenge asks participants to pick one of five tracks for the competition, each of which was selected because it could make life better for people in the city. The tracks are: reducing Boston’s carbon footprint; making open data local; learning more from BuildBPS data; identifying fire risks; and telling a story through data.

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