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

March 9, 2015 11:34 PM

They routinely attract little public attention or news coverage. Yet last week's meeting of aides to the governor and Cabinet illustrates the importance of Florida's public meetings law. Only by requiring that the public's business be conducted in public can Floridians know what elected officials are up to and assess the potential impact.
For example, it became clear at the aides' meeting that Gov. Rick Scott remains determined to fire three more leaders of state agencies that report to the governor and Cabinet. The governor created a firestorm when he ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, who also reported to the governor and Cabinet, without public discussion or a public vote. Open government advocates and media organizations, including the Tampa Bay Times, have filed a lawsuit against the governor and Cabinet and alleged Bailey's ouster violated opening meetings requirements enshrined in the Florida Constitution and state law.

Undeterred, Scott wants Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Tuesday to approve new performance measures for agency heads that report to them. That's fine, but several important details came out when the aides discussed the situation in public. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 11:33 PM

The Washington State Archives has announced a series of open government training workshops throughout Washington in March in support of a state law that was introduced by the Washington State Attorney General‘s Office and passed in 2014.

The Open Government Trainings Act requires training for public officials, public disclosure officers and state-appointed records officers.

The free workshops, presented jointly by the State Archives and the Office of the Attorney General, provide an overview of the rules and requirements of records retention and management, open public meetings, and the state Public Records Act. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 2:51 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency's unacceptable attitude toward public-records requests earned terse words but no sanctions from a federal judge.

Though Landmark Legal Foundation failed to win spoliation sanctions against the EPA, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth agreed with it that the agency had failed its duty to protect and provide public information.

Landmark filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the EPA on Aug. 17, 2012, for any records since Jan. 1, 2012, of communication between EPA representatives and people or organizations outside the EPA about delaying announcements of new regulations until after the November 2012 presidential elections. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 1:14 PM

Lawmakers will scramble over each other to laud transparency and open government when considering legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

But FOIA reform often faces a difficult path toward passage as speculation mounts over its unintended consequences, sometimes stalling action on the bill by Congress. Who launches this quiet resistance against changing the nation's foremost public records law?

Federal agencies, that's who. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 1:08 PM

The Seattle Police Department, for once, is in the headlines for completely positive reasons. Today, the department's new body camera streaming program—which auto-posts videos from the bodycam pilot program to YouTube—was covered by NBC's Today Show. And yesterday, the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) recognized Mike Wagers, the chief operating officer hired by Chief Kathleen O'Toole, for his involvement in launching the program.

"When the Seattle Police Department received an open records request to produce every video ever recorded by the department," WCOG said in a statement, "they didn’t stonewall or obfuscate like so many other agencies have done. Instead, SPD Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers offered to work with the requestor on complying with these requests, while balancing privacy concerns and public disclosure requirements."

Wagers said he's accepting the award on behalf of the department and Tim Clemans, the 24-year-old programmer who requested all the videos. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 1:03 PM

Almost seven weeks into the legislative session, no fewer than 25 bills have been introduced that would affect open meetings, open records or public notice advertising in Iowa.

The bill that has received the most attention is one being fast-tracked that would seal data on Iowa's concealed weapons permit holders. But other bills are lurking in the wings that also would erode openness in our state's government.

Among them:

House study bill 162 would allow anyone to file a written request to prohibit their name, address and telephone number from being accessed on county Internet sites.
Senate file 385 would expand confidentiality of court records, allowing for the expungement of not-guilty verdicts and dismissed criminal charges.
Senate file 292 would make confidential certain juvenile court records.
House study bill 167 would seal records of applications to erect cell phone towers and infrastructure. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 12:56 PM

While Rick Perry has joined Republicans casting stones at Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while she was secretary of state, it seems the former governor is not without sin.

Perry was among the first potential 2016 presidential candidates to chime in on revelations that Clinton conducted government business entirely on a personal email account. On Tuesday morning, Perry said the findings add to a “pattern ... of non-transparency” surrounding Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

“It’s an ethical issue that’s going to have to be addressed,” Perry said during an interview on Fox News, tying the issue to other revelations about the Clinton Foundation taking money from foreign countries while she was the United States’ top diplomat. Continue>>>

March 9, 2015 9:25 AM

Can open records laws be used to access all of the e-mails sent by Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state?

A new court ruling this week suggests: probably not.

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative organization, could not use the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the private email of a government official. The judge reasoned that the act can be used only to get email that is held by a government agency. Continue>>>

March 6, 2015 2:54 PM

A Kentucky federal judge on Tuesday booted Texas Roadhouse Inc.'s suit against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly failing to hand over documents related to its age discrimination case against the restaurant chain, saying the company must first exhaust its administrative remedies.

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. granted the EEOC’s motion to dismiss without prejudice, finding the EEOC did, in fact, respond on Oct. 9 to Texas Roadhouse’s first three Freedom of Information Act requests — filed in July and August — aiming to dig up records behind the EEOC's 2011 age bias suit against Texas Roadhouse. The agency responded to the FOIA requests more than a week after Texas Roadhouse filed the instant suit alleging it hadn’t received a single page of the requested documents.

“Contrary to Texas Roadhouse assertions, the court finds that Texas Roadhouse did not challenge the adequacy of the EEOC’s belated production of documents in its amended complaint,” Judge McKinley said in the order. “Instead, Texas Roadhouse alleges in both the complaint and amended complaint that the EEOC ‘failed to provide either a determination regarding, or the documents responsive, to plaintiffs’ funds request.’” Continue>>>

March 6, 2015 1:03 PM

A House investigative committee said it has records containing two different e-mail addresses used by former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It issued subpoenas Wednesday to find out more about Clinton's use of her private e-mail system to conduct public business.

The State Department denied Clinton used more than one e-mail address, which Clinton herself controlled on her own server at

"That is false. There was just one e-mail account," State spokeswoman Marie Harf said. She said Clinton's use of a private e-mail was not prohibited during her four-year tenure. Continue>>>

March 6, 2015 12:57 PM

Washington State Archives has announced a series of open government training workshops in Eastern Washington this month in support of a state law introduced by the State Attorney General’s Office and passed in 2014.

#The Open Government Trainings Act requires training for public officials, public disclosure officers and state-appointed records officers.

#The free workshops provide an overview of the rules and requirements of records retention and management, open public meetings and the Public Records Act. Continue>>>

March 6, 2015 12:53 PM

With Sunshine Week less than two weeks away, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and Wisconsin Reporter are pursuing legal action that aims to open up government records to the public.

On Tuesday, WILL, a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm, on behalf of Wisconsin Reporter, filed a lawsuit against Jefferson County and its policy calling for the wholesale redaction of identifying information from routine police reports and citations.

WILL and Wisconsin Reporter contend the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department illegally redacted information identifying a Germantown kindergarten teacher who vandalized GOP signs at the Jefferson County Fair in July 2014. Continue>>>

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