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

February 24, 2017 3:10 AM

The Webb County Commissioners Court has joined over 90 counties across the state in opposing a state proposal that would provide public access to court documents online through a statewide database.

Concerns include sensitive information being released to the public and a loss of revenue to the county. The Webb County Clerk’s Office currently charges $1 per page for copies.

County commissioners passed a resolution opposing the amendment or repeal of any current statutes or rules that authorize local control over records held by the county and district clerks.


February 23, 2017 3:25 AM

Crime scene photographs and the 911 emergency call reporting a homicide and an attempted homicide in Franklin County last month must remain available for the public to inspect and hear, a Vermont Superior Court judge has ruled.

During a bail hearing for Ethan Gratton, 26, of Georgia, about three dozen colored pictures were displayed, many on a large screen in the courtroom, while the 911 phone call recording also was played on a loudspeaker for the judge, lawyers, court personnel, police, press and public to hear. Either during the five-hour bail hearing Jan. 18, or shortly after, Gratton's defense team made a private request to the court to seal the photographs, 911 audio recording and other exhibits.


February 23, 2017 3:22 AM

Laura Gutierrez has been trying to get public records from Albuquerque Public Schools for more than a year. In 2014 a school law enforcement officer allegedly used force against her autistic son.

APS opened an investigation and soon cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. Gutierrez wants to see all the documents from this investigation.

In the fall and winter of 2015, Gutierrez filed four public records requests with APS for the district’s internal investigation of the officer, an employee of the school district.


February 23, 2017 3:18 AM

The First Amendment Foundation is warning against dangerous implications of a bill filed by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake.

“Here’s the bill we’ve been warned about,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the foundation in based in Tallahassee.

She said the bill would poke holes in the Sunshine Law which forbids elected leaders from secretly communicating outside of a public meeting.


February 22, 2017 7:22 AM

The White House has removed all of the information that was previously available through its open data portal, posting a message that encourages visitors to “check back soon for new data.” The old data, however, is still available through President Obama’s archive page, albeit in a format where some of the links are not functioning properly.


The Internet Archive has offered to host all of the data from the government’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, doing so in a statement submitted for the record on Tuesday, Feb. 14 to the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet of the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives. Presently, the PACER system provides access to U.S. appellate, district and bankruptcy court documents for $.10 per page.


Kansas City has shared its Smart City data with 18 other cities, two countries and five federal agencies, hoping to spread lessons it has learned about using data to improve local government performance. These lessons have been learned over the past nine months, the time in which Kansas City’s Smart City initiative has been active.


Fargo, N.D.'s use of data is getting a big boost from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has selected the city to be part of its What Works Cities initiative. Fargo officials say they hope this will allow the city to improve open data practices, making information about local government more accessible to the community.


February 22, 2017 7:17 AM

A bill proposed by the Nevada attorney general’s office to categorize and make it easier to identify exemptions to public records disclosure was met with confusion and suspicion Thursday by members of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee.

Assembly Bill 42 was the product of an interim public records working group to clarify what types of records are not subject to disclosure, said Brett Kandt with the attorney general’s office.


February 20, 2017 8:46 PM

Nevada legislators make public records law, but it turns out they don’t have to follow it.

That could change during this legislative session. Senate Bill 170 would make the Nevada Legislature subject to public records laws, and would expand the kinds of information that can be requested.

But will legislators go for it? Will they pass a bill that exposes them to greater scrutiny?


February 20, 2017 8:43 PM

The Wisconsin Supreme Court wrestled with how broadly to apply the state's open meetings law in a case Wednesday that open government advocates warn could provide a gateway to getting around public access requirements.

The lawsuit was brought by the parent of an Appleton Area School District student who said meetings of a committee charged with reviewing course material for a ninth grade English class should have been open to the public.


February 20, 2017 8:39 PM

A bill making it easier for Tennesseans to make public records requests passed an important hurdle Wednesday on its way to becoming law.

The House State Government Subcommittee recommended passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, that would require records custodians that accept requests "in writing, to accept a handwritten request submitted in person or by mail, an email request, or a request on an electronic form submitted online."


February 17, 2017 11:08 PM

Gilman Halsted, a retired Wisconsin Public Radio reporter who produced award-winning examinations of the state’s criminal justice system, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog Award.

Over the course of two decades, Halsted became a familiar voice to WPR listeners, working for six years in the Wausau bureau before moving to Madison in 2000. He covered the courts and the prison system and also wrote and produced general assignment stories for daily state newscasts until his retirement in 2016.


February 17, 2017 11:06 PM

A wage-theft transparency measure that died in the Colorado legislature last year passed unanimously Thursday in the House Judiciary Committee.

The amended version of HB 17-1021 is identical to a proposal that earned bipartisan House support in 2016 but was killed in a Senate committee. The bill allows the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to disclose whether an employer has cheated its workers.

Currently, under the state’s interpretation of a century-old statute, wage-law violations committed by Colorado companies must be kept from the public, even after an investigation is over and a citation has been issued.


February 17, 2017 11:01 PM

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is to hear arguments in a case that could give school boards and other governmental bodies a way around the open meetings law.

The case up for argument Wednesday focuses on whether meetings of a committee created by employees of the Appleton Area School District to review books for use in a ninth grade class should have been open to the public.

More broadly the court will examine whether committees created in the same way that the one in Appleton was brought together allows them to be exempt from the law.


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