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 12, 2016 5:50 PM

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Monday that he has proposed keeping secret the identities of pharmacies that supply lethal-injection drugs for executions, instead of changing the law to force inmates to die in the electric chair if there are no available drugs.

McAuliffe stripped the contentious electric-chair provision from a bill and vowed to veto the measure if lawmakers reintroduce it. He warned that unless Virginia shields lethal-injection-drug manufacturers from public scrutiny, capital punishment in the state will come to a halt.

Lawmakers “have the opportunity to be part of the solution,” McAuliffe said. “If they pass up that opportunity, they will bring the death penalty to an end here in Virginia,” he said. Continue...

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April 12, 2016 5:46 PM

California has some of the strictest laws in the U.S. against publicly releasing information about officer discipline.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) says recent high-profile clashes between police departments and the communities they serve show that now is the time to change the rules. Leno has introduced SB 1286, which would unravel some of the protections against releasing officer information. His push for transparency is generally supported by police reform advocates as a way to improve police-community relations.

“We can begin to rebuild the critically needed trust between law enforcement and community members,” Leno said. “I don’t think it’s at all debatable that that trust has come into question.” Continue...

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April 12, 2016 5:42 PM

A bill to encourage state government whistleblowers won the endorsement of a Senate committee Monday, despite fears that private information could be made vulnerable to security breaches.

Under the amended version of SB 16-056, state employees couldn’t be disciplined for revealing confidential information while reporting instances of waste, mismanagement of public funds or abuses of authority to the state attorney general’s office.

Currently, there are no protections in the law for Colorado government workers who might give out information exempted from disclosure by the Colorado Open Records Act or another state statute. Continue...

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April 11, 2016 4:48 PM

When Glen Grays was inexplicably handcuffed and hauled off by the police in Brooklyn on March 17 while delivering the mail on his route in Crown Heights, the world soon learned a bit about him.

At a news conference given by Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, at which a video of the encounter was made public, Mr. Grays’s mother explained that she had six sons and worried about all of them.

In the days ahead, Mr. Grays spoke to reporters, telling them that he was, in fact, engaged to a New York City police officer, that he had worked hard all of his life, that he had never been arrested and that despite the indignities he had suffered at the hands of the four plainclothes police officers — who were supposed to be in uniform — he did not wish for them to be fired. Continue...

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April 11, 2016 4:42 PM

Delaware and Nevada aren't the only states where it's possible to set up a company without saying who owns it.

In California, too, owners can set up a limited liability company, or LLC, without telling state officials who's behind the curtain.

That anonymity has come under close scrutiny since the release this week of the so-called Panama Papers, which revealed that dozens of global politicians hid assets in offshore shell companies set up by a Panamanian law firm.

And it's been an issue of debate in Los Angeles, where wealthy investors have acquired high-priced real estate through LLCs that have obscured their identity. Continue...

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April 11, 2016 4:38 PM

A Lewis and Clark County jury deliberated four hours at the end of a weeklong trial in deciding that Rep. Art Wittich violated Montana campaign finance law.

District Judge Ray Dayton, of Anaconda, now must decide the penalty.

The Wittich trial is much bigger than one politician illegally taking campaign contributions from secretive out-of-state groups. Continue...

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April 11, 2016 4:30 PM

Is it legitimate for a public institution to stall public record act requests in the heat of ongoing media coverage of a controversy?

I suspect plenty of crisis management consultants would say absolutely yes. Yet in California we have a Public Records Act intended to protect the public interest and ensure transparency.

The spirit of that act means the answer should be a resounding “No.” Continue...

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April 11, 2016 4:26 PM

Public officials who use private email accounts to conduct official business cannot conceal their personal email addresses when releasing public information, a state appeals court ruled Friday.

The question dates back to 2011, when The Austin Bulldog, an independent online news site, filed several open records requests asking for all emails regarding city business between the Austin mayor, city council members and the city manager, according to court papers.

The city immediately turned over some information, but withheld the rest, asking the attorney general's office for advice on whether that remaining information was subject to disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. Continue...

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April 9, 2016 1:26 PM

The state Attorney General's Office has paid a New Jersey gun rights group $101,626 in legal costs and released documents describing the state's firearms background check process after fighting their disclosure in court for years.

The payment was ordered by a judge after a lengthy legal battle between the state and the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, which was seeking the State Police's guide for local departments performing checks on those applying for gun permits.

It comes after a commission formed by Gov. Chris Christie issued a December report finding New Jersey's permitting process was opaque and inefficient. Continue...

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April 9, 2016 1:18 PM

The United States needs to do much more to crack down on offshore tax evasion and financial opacity.

It should impose clear sanctions on the territories that allow rogue financial institutions to operate. Promoting financial opacity pays off for places like the British Virgin Islands, Panama and the Cayman Islands where hundreds of thousands of shell companies are domiciled.

Concrete sanctions, such as trade tariffs, would change the incentives of these havens, and ultimately reduce evasion and create greater accountability. Sanctions should only be lifted once these territories have proved that they have correctly identified the owners who benefit from the companies incorporated on their territory -- the "beneficial owners." Why do we even enable an outsized financial industry to exist in the British Virgin Islands if there’s evidence that it is used to facilitate crimes of all sorts? Continue...

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April 9, 2016 1:13 PM

Alabamians may be deciding whether the sources of so-called "dark money" will have to be revealed after state Sen. Arthur Orr introduced a bill last month to put that question before voters in a constitutional amendment.

The bill (SB356) by Orr, a Republican from Decatur, would affect special interest groups whose main activity is getting involved in political campaigns.

If it passes the legislature, voters would decide whether Montgomery can then make laws regulating the disclosure of dark money donors. Continue...

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April 9, 2016 1:05 PM

The personal information of thousands of low-level sex offenders could soon become public after Washington’s highest court ruled in favor Thursday of releasing a statewide database to a Franklin County woman.

The Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision reverses a ruling in King County Superior Court that the State Patrol couldn’t release the names, addresses and other information of Level 1 sex offenders to Donna Zink.

The decision clears the way for Zink, of Mesa, to reveal the identities of thousands of Level 1 offenders — considered the least likely to reoffend — whose names were previously protected by law-enforcement agencies. Continue...

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