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 3, 2014 3:16 PM

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

Currie says the proposed changes weren't actually her idea; rather -- it's a plan pushed by another prominent Democrat, Senate President John Cullerton. Continue>>>
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December 3, 2014 3:08 PM

A nonprofit group that works to ensure Pennsylvanians have full access to government records and proceedings has a new leader.

The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition announced Tuesday that attorney Corinna Vecsey Wilson will take over as executive director.

Wilson served as chief counsel at the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, vice president of programming at the Pennsylvania Cable Network and chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She currently runs her own consulting firm. Continue>>>
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December 3, 2014 2:59 PM

In Florida we pride ourselves on our policy of government in the sunshine. We expect all aspects of lawmaking and enforcement to be transparent so voters can see and participate in our democratic process and have access to relevant information to hold elected officials accountable.

Most governors have honored this commitment to open government and have tried to follow the spirit of the law.

To his credit, while governor, Charlie Crist formed the Open Government Commission to address some of the loopholes in the current law and to deal with some needed changes because of technological advances. I had the pleasure of serving as the Senate representative. Continue>>>
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December 3, 2014 2:48 PM

Even as an Olympia open meetings advocate posted a win in federal court, the ports of Tacoma and Seattle once again will meet behind closed doors Wednesday (Dec. 3) to discuss their proposed operating alliance.

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart ruled late last week that federal court was the wrong forum in which to decide whether the two port commissions violated the state’s Open Meetings Act. At issue are a series of private meetings the two port commissions held jointly to discuss a possible alliance.

Arthur West, an open government advocate from Olympia, last fall filed a civil suit in King County Superior Court asking a state judge to declare that those meetings violated the state’s Open Meetings Act. Port attorneys sought to have the case removed to federal court. Continue>>>
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December 3, 2014 2:37 PM

Responding to reports that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is seeking to adopt a new email retention policy that would allow the agency to purge thousands of emails from nearly all of its employees, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) are urging the archivist of the United States to reject the proposal that undermines oversight of the agency.

“We are concerned that this policy would undermine the ability of citizens to understand how their government works and hold it accountable,” Leahy and Cornyn wrote in a letter to David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. “In an era when critically important government activities and decisions are conducted via email, a plan to delete the majority of emails at any agency should raise great concern.”

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) sets recordkeeping policies for federal agencies. The CIA is seeking approval with the independent agency to overhaul its email policy to allow all employees and contractors to purge their emails three years after they leave the agency, while the email accounts of the agency’s top officials would become permanent documents. In their letter, Leahy and Cornyn noted that “Due to the nature of the CIA’s work, it is particularly important to evaluate carefully any changes to CIA recordkeeping policies.” Continue>>>
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December 3, 2014 2:20 PM

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and several good government and media groups are speaking out against a measure that they say would "significantly weaken" the state's freedom of information laws.

The state proposal, introduced as an amendment to SB 2799 last week by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, "would expand the ability of a government body to withhold information from the public, and make it harder for citizens to use the legal system when a government body is violating transparency laws," according to a Monday news release from the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).

In addition to Illinois PIRG, other groups opposing the measure, which is expected to go before the Executive Committee on Monday, include the ACLU of Illinois, Better Government Association, Citizen Advocacy Center, Illinois Broadcasters Association and Illinois Press Association. Continue>>>

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December 2, 2014 1:45 PM

An advocate for the disabled has sued the Cuomo administration for detailed disclosures about crimes against disabled individuals in state care and is questioning why thousands of calls to the state's abuse hotline didn't lead to investigations.

The suit filed last week in state court cited data from the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs showing that of more than 70,000 calls in the hotline's first 11 months, only 1,402 were assigned to its investigators. Another 7,572 cases were referred back to state agencies that provide services and contract with nonprofits.

The suit by the Jonathan Carey Foundation claims the data provided under New York's Freedom of Information Law after months of delays omitted details about crimes. The filing also asks why almost 90 percent of the reports were not assigned for investigation. Continue>>>
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December 2, 2014 11:40 AM

The Department of Defense has until Wednesday under a federal court order to produce information on a contracting program that critics say has been harmful to small businesses while benefitting large defense firms.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California issued a ruling last week in favor of the American Small Business League, an advocacy group, in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Pentagon. Alsup ordered the Pentagon to release documents on Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation’s participation in the DOD’s Comprehensive Small Business Subcontracting Plan.

This could set a far-reaching precedent, ASBL spokesman Steve Godfrey told TheBlaze, even though for now it affects just one of the contractors. Continue>>>
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December 2, 2014 11:36 AM

In a state where four of the last seven governors have been convicted of things such as corruption, bribery and fraud, you'd think the general consensus would always be: The more transparent your government is, the better off we'll all be.

But no.

The latest assault on open government is a bill sponsored by State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, that would undermine your ability to watch over what government does on the local and state levels. The Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, gives you access to all kinds of government records – from documents used by your school board to set its budget to the report that police write when you get in a fender-bender. Continue>>>
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December 2, 2014 11:31 AM

At its regularly scheduled Monday meeting, the Ann Arbor City Council will consider resolutions regarding city liquor licenses, extensions of wastewater contracts with Scio Township and updates to the city’s document policies under Freedom of Information laws.

Approval of liquor license for Miya restaurant

The Council will hear a resolution requesting the approval of a liquor license for Miya, a Japanese restaurant located at 715 N. University Ave., formerly the site of Sushi.com.

The motion received unanimous approval from the city’s Liquor License Review Committee, which determined that Miya met all state and local requirements to receive such a license under policies of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Continue>>>
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December 2, 2014 11:22 AM

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents.

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits. Continue>>> 

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December 2, 2014 11:13 AM

The first regular session of the 121st South Carolina General Assembly is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2015. That’s a Tuesday. It’s a little more than six weeks away, or 44 days.

The session will end on or around June 4, 2016. That’s right. Sessions last two years, but sessions don’t last all year.

The 120th session of the South Carolina General Assembly ended on June 5 this year. That was more than 25 weeks ago, or 177 days ago. Continue>>>
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