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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July 19, 2016 12:07 PM

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by an open-government activist who contends that the public should be allowed to view electronic data and metadata kept by local government agencies.

In summer 2013, John Paff requested a log of the emails sent by the Galloway Township police chief and the township clerk during a two-week period in June 2013, and then sued in an Ocean County court when his request was denied. Continue...

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July 19, 2016 11:58 AM

Tackling a county budget may seem daunting, but Smart Cville tactfully lays out Albemarle’s budget in a spread of colors with its new budget visualization tool that illustrates how your money helps the county.

Smart Cville, a locally based nonprofit, aims to open up data, plain and simple. Creator Lucas Ames, 35, sent out a letter in mid-April requesting that Charlottesville adopt an open data resolution. In mid-June, the mayor convened a meeting to discuss open data as the city continues its work to further improve open-data relations between city legislatures and citizens. Continue...

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July 19, 2016 11:31 AM

A training seminar on ethics and open government will be held in El Paso on Wednesday by the Austin-based Texas Center for Municipal Ethics.

The full-day seminar is open to anyone that wants to register, but organizers said city officials such as city managers, city secretaries, elected officials and city attorneys from the region are encouraged to attend the “Integrity at City Hall” training. Continue...

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July 19, 2016 11:26 AM

The criminal charges against a Blue Ridge weekly newspaper publisher and his attorney, charges based on their attempts to access public records, were dropped Monday, putting to rest a case that riled media nationwide and stunned the legal community.

Judge Richard Winegarden, a retired Gwinnett Superior Court judge brought in to hear the case, conceded that it was unusual to call a hearing on a prosecutor’s motion to dismiss charges. But he recited a lengthy list of other events in the criminal case against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and Hiawassee attorney Russell Stookey that also made it extraordinary. Continue...

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July 18, 2016 2:26 PM

Two White House offices jointly released new guidance on July 14 instructing agencies to expand their data transparency activities and incorporate public feedback.

The memo for the heads of executive departments and agencies, issued by the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, builds on the Obama administration's open-data initiatives, including OMB's 2009 Open Government Directive, which requires agencies to incorporate data transparency into their central activities and update their open-government plans every two years. Continue...

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July 18, 2016 2:22 PM

The Department of Corrections is seeking authority to destroy recordings of staff training just one day after their creation.

The agency, which is cooperating with federal investigators over allegations of staff abuse of inmates, destroying public records, and other incidents at its Irma youth prison, is asking the state’s Public Records Board to approve an update to the department’s records policy. Continue...

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July 18, 2016 2:15 PM

A new lawsuit alleges that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) intentionally conducts inadequate searches of its records using a decades-old computer system when queried by citizens looking for records that should be available to the public.

Freedom of Information Act (Foia) researcher Ryan Shapiro alleges “failure by design” in the DoJ’s protocols for responding to public requests. The Foia law states that agencies must “make reasonable efforts to search for the records in electronic form or format”. Continue...

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July 18, 2016 1:49 PM

GovDelivery, the leading provider of cloud-based software solutions enhancing the citizen experience, announces availability of the first performance-based benchmarking report for public sector digital communications. The GovDelivery Benchmark Report, titled “Metrics that Matter in the Public Sector,” identifies proven metrics for measuring the success of digital communications within government and provides government-specific data that can be used to improve the citizen experience.

Each year, government agencies send billions of messages to serve millions of citizens, yet often have very different strategies for increasing engagement and enhancing opportunities to better leverage digital communications. In the report, GovDelivery analyzed the most important metrics based on data from approximately 1,800 government organizations that use digital communications to connect with more than 120 million individuals. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:39 AM

A task force looking at possible changes to North Dakota’s open records laws is considering whether the attorney general should be able to penalize government agencies that hold illegal private meetings or don’t share records.

The group of lawyers, newspaper editors and law officers is formulating draft legislation to be considered by lawmakers next year, The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/29EwmsO ) reported. The task force is seeking to update laws for the digital age and deal with some controversial open records issues, such as allowing correspondence between legislators and correspondence between legislators and applicants for major posts at public universities to be open records. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:33 AM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc in Detroit Free Press v. Department of Justice, has concluded that individuals have sufficient privacy interests in their police booking photos to preclude their release under the Freedom of Information Act. The decision, which produced an unusual lineup among the court’s justices, is available here.

Judge Cook wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Judge Cole and Judges Guy, Gibbons, Rogers, Sutton, McKeague, Kethledge and White. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:25 AM

In the 2015 fiscal year, the U.S. federal government processed 769,903 Freedom of Information requests. The government fully fulfilled only 22.6 percent of those requests; 44.9 percent of federal FOIA requests were either partially or fully denied. Even though the government denied at least part of more than 345,000 requests, it only received 14,639 administrative appeals.

In an attempt to make the FOIA appeals process easier and help reporters and others understand how and why their requests are being denied, MuckRock is on Thursday launching a project to catalog and explain the exceptions both the federal and state governments are using to deny requests. Continue...

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July 15, 2016 11:17 AM

A D.C. Council committee roundtable chaired by Vincent Orange (D-At Large) on July 13 listened to a crowded hearing room packed with residents angry about illegal construction and weak consumer protection by city regulators in the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).

The Open Government Coalition testified on basic problems for those seeking simple information. Building permits (approved or pending, plus the full file of plans) must by law be posted online but--years after the requirement took effect--remain unavailable. Continue...

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