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 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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December 1, 2014 2:49 PM

Mayor of the District of Columbia Vincent C. Gray today announced the launch or advancement of six initiatives as part of his ongoing strategy to improve government transparency and accountability. The new initiatives are: the appointment of a 15-member Open Government Advisory Group; the re-launch of the data.dc.gov website which now includes 237 new datasets; and a redesigned track.dc.gov, where residents can track agency performance.

The new open data projects complement other online applications the Mayor previously launched, directing city agencies to provide increased information to the public and significantly widen opportunities for public feedback, including: implementation of FOIAXpress, the District's first-ever citywide FOIA processing system; required agency posting of Open Government Reports; revision of the Terms and Conditions on the dc.gov website to loosen restrictions on the use of government data posted online; and continued promotion of grade.dc.gov where residents can grade their government to facilitate improved service delivery.

"From the beginning of the Gray Administration, we have created a climate of openness and transparency and these new and improved initiatives will have a lasting positive impact on how the public interfaces and learns about of the workings of the District government," said Mayor Gray. "An open and transparent government translates into a better government." Continue>>>
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December 1, 2014 2:39 PM

The Obama administration is "walking the walk" on government transparency by asking the public to help write a guide for agencies on ways to engage the public.

"This resource reflects the commitment of the government and civic partners to measurably improve participation programs, and is designed using the same inclusive principles that it champions," wrote Corinna Zarek, White House senior adviser for open government, and Justin Herman, SocialGov lead for the General Services Administration, in a blog post announcing the Public Participation Playbook.

The playbook stems from the administration's most recent pledge to give the public a greater say in how the federal government operates. GSA has made a draft of the playbook available for public comment on a digital platform called Madison. It plans to release in January an edited version of the playbook that agencies can use and further refine. Continue>>>
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December 1, 2014 2:31 PM

The recent news that the lost or destroyed Lois Lerner emails were actually not lost or destroyed surprised some people. That they will now be sorted, cataloged and released provokes mixed reactions. It has some Republicans upset that more wasn’t done and more transparently. It has some Democrats upset that more money is being spent on what some see as a witch hunt that reveals not even a smidgen of corruption. Despite the 18 months of dissembling about who did what and when, the latter reaction may be premature.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has confirmed that, on top of the backed-up email horde, there are also nearly 2,500 documents relating to investigations of the improper disclosure of confidential taxpayer information by the IRS to the White House. Yes, the White House.

Why should the White House be getting confidential taxpayer information? That is a good question. If the facts show such data was transmitted, even under the most charitable interpretation, you would think every American would want to know what happened. Continue>>>
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December 1, 2014 2:16 PM

Lansing-area lawmakers are open to modernizing the state's nearly four-decades-old Open Meetings Act, provided it doesn't put too much burden on governments.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Law Revision Commission recommended the Legislature update state law to require a public body that "directly or indirectly maintains an official Internet presence" to put more information such as meeting notices, minutes and "records that are the subjects of agenda items" online.

In interviews, lawmakers and lawmakers-elect from the Greater Lansing region said they support transparency and modernized government but many expressed concerns about placing new burdens or expenses on municipalities. Continue>>>
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December 1, 2014 2:07 PM

What was said to whom and when about St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s plans for a replacement hospital in O’Fallon have led to Freedom of Information Act requests by the city of Belleville and the hospital. And now the attorney general is investigating those requests and the responses provided.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has called for further inquiry into responses to the FOIA requests Belleville made to O’Fallon, and the requests St. Elizabeth’s made to Belleville

While an attorney representing Belleville said he trusts the “standard process” as Belleville awaits more information requested from O’Fallon, a Hospital Sisters Health System attorney said she expects transparency from Belleville as it awaits documents from the city. Continue>>>
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December 1, 2014 1:57 PM

Socrata, a startup working to make government data more easily accessible to companies and services, has raised $30 million in new funding.

Socrata has raised at least $30 million out of possible $35 million it’s seeking to close, according to a filing it submitted today to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing lists Jai Das of Sapphire Ventures as a director.

Although Socrata mentions several products on its website, it’s mainly focused on helping bridge government data and companies and developers through application programming interfaces (APIs), applications, and online data portals. The goal is to increase government transparency and citizen engagement through government data. Continue>>>
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