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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April 19, 2017 11:49 PM

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. is calling on the chairman of House Oversight Committee to become more engaged in overseeing ethics questions in the Trump administration.

In an interview with NPR on Monday, Shaub said public inquiries and complaints involving Trump administration conflicts of interest and ethics have been inundating his tiny agency, which has only advisory power.

"We've even had a couple days where the volume was so huge it filled up the voicemail box, and we couldn't clear the calls as fast as they were coming in," Shaub said. His office is scrambling to keep pace with the workload.

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April 19, 2017 11:46 PM

Since public access opened over a year ago, FOIA requests for video from Metropolitan Police body-worn cameras (BWC) have numbered just over sixty and redacting those released so far has cost only $25,000.

Those facts, released by the Open Government Coalition in a Sunshine Week briefing at the National Press Club, are far from the alarming estimates provided by the executive branch to the D.C. Council in the heat of the extended camera debate in 2015.

The mayor fought to prohibit public access, in part with forecasts that the District faced sky-high costs--more than a million dollars a year--for new staff to handle time-consuming review of an expected 4,500 requests a year. The projections lacked any foundation, as there was scant BWC experience nationwide at the time. With the small evidence available (that showed nothing like such costs), the Coalition rebutted the estimates and joined many community voices in successfully urging the Council that regular FOIA procedures were adequate to protect all the interests involved.

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April 19, 2017 11:44 PM

The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation’s hospitals that put patients’ health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government.

There’s increasing concern among regulators that private accreditors aren’t picking up on serious problems at health facilities. Every year, CMS takes a sample of hospitals and other health care facilities accredited by private organizations and does its own inspections to validate the work of the groups. In a 2016 report, CMS noted that its review found that accrediting organizations often missed serious deficiencies found soon after by state inspectors.

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April 19, 2017 2:27 AM

City Hall wants people to have easier access to things like code violations, pothole locations and other information they're seeking.

Syracuse's innovation office is crafting an open data policy for sharing all sorts of stats on the operation of city government.

Under the new policy, the city would release information on things like outstanding code violations, location of potholes and other data routinely sought by residents. It will also provide analysis of that data and show trends where available.

Currently, access to most of the city's cache of information requires a Freedom of Information request, which goes through the city law department and can take months to process.

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April 19, 2017 2:26 AM

Legislation that would prohibit politicians from using their campaign finance funds for personal use was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant Tuesday in his state Capitol office.

When the 2017 session began in January, the bill was labeled as a priority by both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate.

Efforts were made to pass similar legislation during the 2016 session, but it was killed in the House. Mississippi was one of a handful of states where politicians could spend their campaign finance funds on personal items.

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April 19, 2017 2:23 AM

A woman was honored Friday for her pursuit of keeping her local government open to the public.

The Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government presented its 2017 Friend of Open Government award to Debbie Miller of Independence, Kansas.

The group says Miller has pressed her local government for openness over the past several years. They say one instance, when she pressed for a copy of the form the city uses to evaluate the city manager's job performance, stood out to them.

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April 18, 2017 1:24 AM

The state attorney's office is now investigating an alleged sunshine law violation at a Suncoast charter school.

This follows an increasingly tense dispute between the school and parents of a former student.

Island Village Montessori School is a remote campus off Clark road. For three years, Jennifer and Jeffrey Buck--parents of 2nd grader Cooper Buck--say they poured time and energy into the school.

"We were a lovely loving family. We planted trees. We loved that school," Jeffrey Buck said. "We loved everything about it and what we did hit a nerve."

That "nerve" Buck is referring to was not one particular incident, but a series of conflicts with the school.

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April 18, 2017 1:21 AM

Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed into law a bill that allows the public to know if an employer steals wages from his or her workers.

Democratic Rep. Jessie Danielson's measure includes these wage violations under Colorado's Open Records Act.

The law, signed Thursday, allows citizens to find out if they're doing business with, or considering a job with, an offender.

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April 18, 2017 1:14 AM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit Tuesday demanding information about President Donald Trump’s executive orders restricting immigration and travel from Muslim-majority nations.

Filed jointly with ACLU affiliates in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and Alaska, the suit demands that the regional U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Portland, Oregon, release documents related to the on-the-ground implementation of the orders, the first of which Trump signed on Jan. 27. ACLU affiliates have coordinated in filing such lawsuits against Customs and Border Protection offices in 13 states nationwide.

The ACLU first filed an FOIA request on Feb. 2 seeking documents — including text messages, voicemails, emails, directives and training documents — related to the implementation of the orders at airports across the U.S. They are now suing because “the government has failed to substantively respond” to the request.

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April 15, 2017 12:17 AM

The family of Ramarley Graham, an unarmed teen killed by police in the Bronx, said on Wednesday they filed a lawsuit against the NYPD after the department didn’t comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.

The filing came on what would have been Graham’s 24th birthday.

Graham was 18 when he was killed in February 2012 after former police officer Richard Haste chased him into his Bronx apartment and shot him as he tried to flush marijuana down the toilet. Haste said he believed Graham was armed, but no gun was found.

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April 15, 2017 12:15 AM

A judge has ruled that Arkansas State Police public information officer, Bill Sadler, violated the Freedom of Information Act.

Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor found Sadler had committed five civil violations of the FOIA law when he relied on a "blanket police" and failed to give valid reasons for not releasing dashcam videos.

Judge Tabor ordered those videos be released Monday in five cases being overseen by attorney W. Whitfield Hyman.

Hyman sued Sadler for rejecting his FOIA requests on the ground that they were exempt as part of an ongoing investigation.

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April 15, 2017 12:09 AM

President Donald Trump’s administration announced Friday that the White House won’t release records of its visitors, raising new concerns from transparency advocates.

The decision not to voluntarily disclose White House visitor logs is a break from the policy of former President Barack Obama’s administration, even though Trump had called his predecessor the “least transparent president.”

White House communications director Michael Dubke framed the decision not to disclose who visits the president as resulting from the “national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.”

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