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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November 29, 2016 11:41 AM

The NYPD does not keep detailed data explaining how or where property is seized during arrests, city lawyers say in court documents obtained by the Daily News.

The department’s Property and Evidence Tracking System, or PETS, can’t provide a breakdown of how much money or property — including vehicles — is seized on a precinct-by-precinct basis, city lawyers recently claimed in Manhattan Supreme Court filings.

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November 29, 2016 11:36 AM

The office within the National Archives and Records Administration tasked with overseeing Freedom of Information Act activities across government has tapped Alina Semo as its new director.

Semo, who has served as NARA's director of litigation in the Office of General Counsel since March 2014, will take over as director of the Office of Government Information Services. OGIS was established under the OPEN Government Act of 2007 as the ombudsman between FOIA requesters and federal agencies.

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November 29, 2016 11:32 AM

The Boston Police Department is on the verge of buying new software that will scan social media and the Internet for criminal activity and threats to public safety — a step that civil liberties groups say is a worrisome risk to free speech and privacy.

The software would be able to search blogs, websites, chat rooms, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. It would provide law enforcement officials with an address of where the content was posted and allow police to create a “geo-fence” that would send alerts when new posts are made within an area that meets specified search criteria.

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November 28, 2016 2:36 PM

An attorney for the Freedom of Information Commission has tentatively ruled that state police violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act when the agency required written permission from a prosecutor for the release of documents while a case was pending prosecution.

Hearing Officer Lisa Fein Siegel found in her Nov. 9 report, stemming from a complaint from the Record-Journal, that the law enforcement agency’s policy violated state law regarding the release of arrest records during pending prosecution.

State police turned over the requested documents ahead of a September hearing before the commission, but Siegel said the agency’s policy also resulted in an unwarranted delay. The FOI Commission will vote Dec. 7 on whether it accepts Siegel’s findings and decision.

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November 28, 2016 2:31 PM

If you've ever wondered what all of those firetrucks or police cars were doing the other day on the Naperville street where you live, you need wonder no longer starting Monday.

As part of an "open data" initiative enacted earlier this month by the Naperville City Council, residents will be able to learn when, where and why police officers or firefighters were sent out on emergency calls, courtesy of a daily "public safety incident map" making its formal debut Monday on the city's website.

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November 28, 2016 2:30 PM

As challenging as public records can be, it’s an incredibly important part of the democratic process that often provides a unique opportunity for oversight and engagement. That opportunity wouldn’t be possible without government officials doing their job, and often going above and beyond in the name of transparency.

This holiday, MuckRock once again wants to ask you to take a moment and say thanks to a public records officer who has gone above and beyond in helping process a request. Maybe it was for waiving a fee, or helping you better phrase your request to get what you wanted.

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FOIA officer, MuckRock
November 25, 2016 11:14 PM

After months of wrangling with reporters and in court over the disclosure of emails, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday released a third batch of its correspondence with outside advisers that it has designated as “agents of the city.”

The emails, released in response to a Freedom of Information Law request, totaled more than 1,550 pages and date to the first days of Mr. de Blasio’s tenure, in early 2014, through April 2015.

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November 25, 2016 11:10 PM

The House passed laws in September that would expand the state's Freedom of Information Act, which allows citizens to access records, to the governor's office. The bills would also subject the legislature to a separate Legislative Open Records Act. Currently neither the governor or legislature are subject to FOIA.

While the bills passed the House easily, there seems to be less appetite in the Senate, where they've been referred to the Government Operations Committee. That committee has a reputation around the capitol for being where bills go to die.

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November 25, 2016 11:06 PM

The Missouri Department of Corrections knowingly violated the state’s Sunshine Law when it refused to provide records about applicants who sought to witness Missouri executions, an appeals court ruled.

The ACLU had sued to obtain the information to determine if the department was choosing witnesses impartially.

In response, the corrections department produced heavily redacted records, even though many witness applicants had agreed to produce the information.

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November 23, 2016 11:13 PM

The Daily Tar Heel filed a lawsuit against UNC on Monday for access to public records regarding sexual assault cases on campus.

The Daily Tar Heel requested the records Sept. 30 and set a deadline of Oct. 28 which the University did not meet.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of The Daily Tar Heel, the Capital Broadcasting Company, the Charlotte Observer Publishing Company and The Durham Herald Company against Chancellor Carol Folt as the custodian of the records and Gavin Young, senior director for public records at UNC.

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November 23, 2016 11:09 PM

Faced with a rising death toll from opioid abuse, Texas public health officials in May decided to apply for a $1 million federal grant to purchase Naloxone, a drug that, if administered during an overdose, can save the life of a person addicted to heroin or pain pills.

The Texas Department of State Health Services hired an outside grant writer to begin drafting a proposal, which was due at the end of the month. As the deadline drew closer, outside researchers and public health workers were brought in to help. If the grant was approved, community health workers and first responders hoped to have the Naloxone on hand by year’s end, courtesy of funding by the Obama administration.

But state officials never submitted the application. Researchers and advocates who contributed to the grant process said they were surprised to learn their work was for naught. They said state officials never offered them an explanation for why the grant was not pursued.

Now, the public health agency is going to unusual lengths to keep the public from seeing government records related to the grant. In response to a public information request filed by The Texas Tribune, the Texas Attorney General’s office told the health agency in September that records about the aborted grant application are public under Texas law.

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November 23, 2016 11:06 PM

Colorado has had its share of high-profile criminal cases.

The aborted rape prosecution of NBA star Kobe Bryant. The capital trial of Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes. The preliminary hearing for the kidnapper and killer of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway. The pending prosecution of the admitted Planned Parenthood shooter, Robert Lewis Dear.

In each case, a judge entered an order severely restricting the public’s right to inspect records kept in court files, largely out of concern that seating an impartial jury would be more difficult if the records were widely disseminated.

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