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

September 19, 2014 9:39 AM

Federal investigators appear to be looking into actions of the recently dissolved Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department. Responding to a tip, the Paxton Record filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Sept. 5 seeking the disclosure of any federal subpoenas for records that Iroquois County had received relating to the bi-county health department.

Iroquois County's FOIA officer, Amanda Longfellow, denied the request on Sept. 12, saying that providing the information requested would 'interfere with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceedings ...'

On Monday, Iroquois County Board Chairman Rod Copas would neither confirm nor deny a federal investigation is under way. Iroquois County State's Attorney Jim Devine did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Continue>>>

September 19, 2014 9:38 AM

Two years after Rhode Island revised its open records law, compliance with the new rules is spotty, enforcement is rare and a culture of indifference, ìif not outright hostility,î prevails in the state, a newly released report says.

ìThe reality on the ground in Rhode Island is far different from what was hoped for when the legislation passed,î according to ìAccess Limited,î the report produced by Access/RI, a coalition of First Amendment advocates, and MuckRock, a Boston-based group that works with journalists and citizens to obtain and analyze public records.

In June 2012, when Governor Chafee signed the changes in the Access to Public Records Act into law, open government advocates and politicians said employment contracts would be public; a new public-versus-private 'balancing test' would result in the release of previously unavailable government records; frontline workers would be trained in the new law, and the 10-day government response deadline would be enforced. Continue>>>

September 19, 2014 9:36 AM

High school students and their teachers differ on which of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are the most important, but speech and religion are by far the top finishers, according to a new survey.

Students, by 65 percent, say speech is the most important freedom guaranteed, while 25 percent of students say religion is the most important right. A plurality of 42 percent of teachers believe freedom of religion is most important, while 40 percent of teachers say speech is the most important right guaranteed under the First Amendment.

The findings, released on Constitution Day, were part of the annual "Students on the Future of the First Amendment" survey conducted by the Knight Foundation. Continue>>>

September 19, 2014 9:33 AM

Getting ahead of pending legislation intended to enhance transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency today adopted a freedom of information policy that will abide by the laws of New York State and New Jersey.

The Port Authority Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new policy during this afternoon's monthly meeting, which was held in Jersey City under the agency's new policy of rotating meeting locations.

Details of the policy are to be crafted by the agency's general counsel in conjunction with the board secretary, and the final policy will which be adopted by the board and take effect no later than January 1, said Chairman John Degnan. Continue>>>

September 19, 2014 9:31 AM

Despite having a new criminal subpoena in hand, Gov. Pat Quinn's administration dragged its feet in releasing the politically-sensitive public document -- a delay one expert called a gaming of the state open-records laws that 'stinks'.

On Tuesday, the governor's office finally released the federal grand jury subpoena dated Aug. 27 that sought records related to Quinn's failed Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence program, but it did so only selectively.

After the end of business on Sept. 3, the Chicago Sun-Times submitted an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request seeking ìany state or federal subpoenasî received by the governorís office dating back to Aug. 1, a time period that covered the latest query from the U.S. attorney's office. Continue>>>

September 17, 2014 2:03 PM

Today the group "Progress Michigan" plans to release documents they say shows conversations between Governor Rick Snyder's office and the Department of Corrections.

Group members say they obtained more than 100 pages through the "Freedom of Information Act." Governor Rick Snyder has been under pressure to end the state's contract with Aramark.

The company provides food services to prisons and is under fire after reports of maggots near the food, inadequate staffing and improper relations with inmates. Continue>>>

September 17, 2014 2:02 PM

Our View: Public officials need to respect the freedom of access granted by the Oklahoma Open Records Act and honor their duty to fulfill such requests.

Freedom of Information laws are intended to allow the public access to records they have rights to review and posses. Additionally, the laws encourage bureaucratic transparency and accountability. These laws exist to ensure freedom of access to records and meetings that are public information. Naturally, we become suspicious when public officials try to skirt Freedom of Information laws and obscure requests.

We take violations of the Open Records Act seriously and the law does too. Sadly, the law is rarely enforced. In the eyes of the law violating the Oklahoma Open Records Act is a misdemeanor carrying a possible one-year jail sentence and $500 fine ó nearly the exact same sentence people arrested for marijuana possession receive. While people are arrested all the time for smoking pot, Freedom of Information violators are almost never punished for their crime. Continue>>>

September 17, 2014 2:01 PM

Republican Attorney General Candidate John Cahill criticized Attorney General Eric Schneiderman during a press conference in Albany last week for refusing to disclose information provided by his political consultants.

The allegations were made specifically in regards to communications with Jennifer Cunningham, managing director at the communications firm SKDKnickerbocker ó Schneiderman's former wife. During her heyday as a successful lobbyist, Cunningham played a decisive role during Schneiderman's 2010 campaign for AG by garnering support from major organizations.

"Schneiderman is conferring a phony status to his consultants in order to justify withholding communications with them and he needs to come clean about it," Cahill said. Continue>>>

September 17, 2014 1:59 PM

Last month I received some great news. A report titled ìState Open Data Policies and Portalsî was released by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Data Innovation and ranked Oklahoma as one of the top six top-scoring states for its open data policies.

This is just the latest in a series of national recognitions of the transparency advancement for which we have spent years working toward.

According to the report, state governments can show their commitment to open data in two principal ways: by establishing open data policies and by creating open data portals. Open data policies specify what data the government will publish and how it will do so. Open data portals bring data from multiple government agencies onto a single website. The reported ranked Oklahomaís open data policy and portal and placed us in a tie for first place in the nation. Continue>>>

September 17, 2014 1:58 PM

Newspapers, government watchdog groups and open government advocates across the state of Georgia have cheered the recent decision of Forsyth County Superior Court requiring the city of Cumming and its mayor, Henry Ford Gravitt, to shell out $6,000 each for violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.

The prosecution of the city and mayor has been extolled as a victory for Attorney General Sam Olens. It has been a a victory for the blogger, Nydia Tisdale, whose rights to video tape a city council meeting were abridged.

The case has also been styled a win for open government activists. Newspapers, such as The Valdosta Daily Times, see it as great news for those of us who take our roles as the Fourth Estate of government seriously. This battle and victory, however, in reality is a win for the people of Georgia. Continue>>>

September 17, 2014 1:57 PM has taken open source to heart. Beyond just providing open data and open source code, the entire process involves open civic engagement. All team ideas, public interactions, and new ideas (from any interaction) are cross-posted and entered in Github. These are tracked openly and completed to milestones for full transparency. We also recently redesigned the website at through usability testing and open engagement on Github.

Today, I want to share with you just five of the hundreds of applications that have been developed by the public using open government data. These are examples of the kind of apps, visualizations, and analyses that are created from working with developers, educators, and businesses on a specific challenge at events that pull the community together, like data jams, meetups, and conferences.


Archimedes makes tools that give quantitative models to doctors and patients so that they can find effective interventions, predict how interventions will affect an individualís health risk, and help decision-makers analyze health outcomes. These quantitative models are key to improving medicine and optimizing treatments by enabling more effective individualized medicine rather than general guidelines. Archimedesí products use federal open data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; trial datasets from the National Institutes of Health such as the Framingham Heart Study; and Medicare datasets. Continue>>>

apps, Github, oped data
September 17, 2014 1:55 PM

South Carolina's top cop asked legislators Tuesday to ensure that agents who investigate child deaths continue to have access to records like autopsy reports and birth certificates, saying he hopes a recent court ruling won't change that.

"There is no higher mission than the protection of our children," State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel told a special Senate panel Tuesday. "This is paramount to the department's ability to continue to fulfill its purpose and duties."

Keel testified before the Senate's Freedom of Information Act Study Committee. During its first meeting, the panel discussed the effects of two recent rulings that deal with interpreting the state's FOI law. Continue>>>

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