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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March 29, 2015 11:13 PM
The kerfuffle over the email policy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to fester. Critics call her use of a private server for official business a contemptuous slap against transparency, while defenders say she is not alone in shielding business-related emails from the public.
 
Indeed, the website Politico noted in a recent story that the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t apply to Congress, which means emails by Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — Republicans who are possible presidential candidates, as is Democrat Clinton — are likely to remain closed to public scrutiny.
 
To which we say: The terms of this debate are all wrong. The onus shouldn’t be on the public to prove why their elected officials’ correspondence should be open to scrutiny; it should be on the officials to prove why their emails should be off-limits in the first place.Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 11:13 PM
An incredible amount of money — about $140 billion — is on the line. Teacher evaluations, tighter ethics laws for lawmakers, higher education and school funding, environmental cleanup money and much more are all getting hashed out behind closed doors in Albany these days.
 
It is an unseemly, sullied process, rarely leading to the best deal.
 
Certainly, it is an absolute affront to open government, despite repeated promises from virtually everyone involved to have a more inclusive, open method of passing a budget. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 11:12 PM
As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a personal email account has recently come under scrutiny, Charlottesville Tomorrow has evaluated the email practices of Charlottesville’s City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
 
Two of the 11 elected officials on these bodies advertise personal email addresses on their government website, and neither locality has made it a practice to routinely archive communications from personal email accounts.
 
“Having a government email address is important from an accountability standpoint because it offers immediate accountability,” said Megan Rhyne, associate director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “It’s a citizen’s right to see what their government is up to.” Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 11:08 PM
For democracy to work, citizens need to know what their government is up to. Hillary Clinton hid her emails as secretary of state from her citizen bosses. She wanted us to know only what she wanted us to know. Scott Walker hid his emails as Milwaukee County executive, too.
 
Could both of these presidential candidates have achieved their goals without breaking the rules? It appears so. They broke the rules anyway.
 
It's a bipartisan effort, this hiding from the public. We battle continually to gain access. This month, we asked to intervene in two court cases: Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:49 PM

A South Carolina State University board committee's recent meeting to approve an organizational structure for the institution was illegal, says Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association.

The university was nearing the March 13 deadline to hand in documents to the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges and an approved organizational structure was part of the package required by the accrediting agency.

Trustees failed to vote on it at a meeting March 10. Instead, they gave authority to the board's executive committee to tentatively approve the document. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:45 PM

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education notified parents this week that personal information about students was inadvertently sent to a reporter in February, education officials said.

District officials released an Excel file in response to a Freedom of Information Act inquiry from the Web site BuzzFeed, that included audited enrollment data about individual students and information about suspensions and expulsions.

Personal information was redacted, and the file was locked when it was sent, but education officials later realized that the file could be unlocked. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:40 PM

The state Attorney General's office is welcoming the public for an educational forum on Open Meeting Law in Hanover on Wednesday, April 1. 

The meeting is one way the office aims to help governing bodies as well as members of the public to better understand and comply with the requirements of the Open Meeting Law, according to a news release. State, local, regional, and county public bodies are required to comply with the Open Meeting Law.

Since taking over responsibility for enforcement of the Open Meeting Law at all levels of government in July 2010, the Attorney General's Division of Open Government has responded to more than 10,300 telephone and email inquiries from members of public bodies, municipal counsel, and the public, the release said. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:36 PM

The state's Open Meeting Law is "unfair and undemocratic." It "puts cold water on the process and stifles innovation." The law is used to "harass local officials," and its agenda is to make things easier for the press, "who have done nothing to deserve it."

Those are just a few of the comments made by small-town select board members and others on Saturday, following a presentation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and her staffer Amy Nable on the state law that's designed to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open.

Healy was elected attorney general in November, and Nable is chief of the office's Division of Open Government. The occasion was Sen. Stan Rosenberg's 2015 municipal conference held at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton, an annual event for local officials from Hampshire and Franklin counties. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:29 PM

For the third consecutive General Assembly, a bill to make the University of Delaware and Delaware State University subject to Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) requests has been introduced.

In 2011, House Bill 126 never made it out of committee. In 2014, House Bill 331 passed unanimously — but not in the form sponsors intended.

Now, lawmakers are taking another crack at it.
All three bills have sought to define the universities as public bodies, thus removing exemptions to FoIA requests.
Enacted nationally in 1966 and in Delaware in 1977, the Freedom of Information Act opened up government, allowing citizens to submit formal requests for information. Continue>>>
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March 29, 2015 10:26 PM

Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration want the Clinton email scandal to go away. The liberal media may comply, but Judicial Watch is independent and is increasing its pressure with new court action.

On March 2, 2015, The New York Times reported then-Secretary Clinton used at least one non-“state.gov” email account to conduct official government business during her entire tenure as the secretary of state. It also was reported that Clinton stored these records on a non-U.S. government server at her home in Chappaqua, NY.

At least 18 lawsuits, 10 of which are active in federal court, and approximately 160 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests could be affected by Mrs. Clinton’s and her staff’s use of secret email accounts to conduct official government business. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:09 AM
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education notified parents this week that personal information about students was inadvertently sent to a reporter in February, education officials said.
 
District officials released an Excel file in response to a Freedom of Information Act inquiry from the Web site BuzzFeed, that included audited enrollment data about individual students and information about suspensions and expulsions.
 
Personal information was redacted, and the file was locked when it was sent, but education officials later realized that the file could be unlocked. Continue>>>
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March 27, 2015 8:08 AM
Of the 15 federal agencies that receive the most Freedom of Information Act requests –nine-tenths of the total government-wide – eight improved their compliance in the most recent annual report card by a watchdog group, but only two, Agriculture and SSA, scored as high as a B.
 
The report from the Center for Effective Government gave the top score to USDA at 85 percent, and SSA a B-minus at 82 percent, while only three others scored as a C or C-minus—Justice, EEOC and the National Archives and Records Administration. State fell at the bottom with a 37 percent grade and HHS also got an F at 57 percent. In the D-plus to D-minus range were DHS, DoT, Treasury, EPA, VA, Labor, DoD and SEC.
 
Grading was based on the establishment of clear agency rules guiding the release of information and communication with those requesting information; the quality and “user-friendliness” of an agency’s FOIA website; and the timely, complete processing of requests for information. Continue>>>
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