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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June 22, 2015 8:48 AM

Police agencies nationwide and across Western New York are increasingly adding body cameras to their uniforms in response to public demands for more oversight of police.

"The benefit to the body camera is wherever I go, the camera goes," said Det. Thomas Dewey, NFTA Transit Police.

Public demands escalated over the last year following the controversial deaths of suspects in Ferguson, North Charleston and Baltimore.  Continue>>>

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June 22, 2015 8:43 AM

Rights to personal privacy and government access soon may be added to the Wyoming Constitution.

Lawmakers meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday voted to have staff members draft a proposed constitutional amendment that guarantees residents a “right to individual privacy” and a “right to know” about public business.

The move comes after the Legislature rejected a bill earlier this year that would have asked voters to approve the privacy amendment without open government protections.  Continue>>>

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June 19, 2015 9:32 AM

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is developing several tools to make information on natural gas drilling more accessible to the public. This includes a new fracking chemical disclosure site, a web portal for information on each natural gas well, and opportunities for the public to comment on proposed DEP policies.

DEP Secretary John Quigley says the effort is part of the Wolf administration’s commitment to “collaboration, transparency and integrity.” He spoke Wednesday night at the annual dinner of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council in Philadelphia.  Continue>>>

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June 19, 2015 9:23 AM

ST. JOSEPH - Requesting government documents through Michigan's Freedom of Information Act is getting a lot freer, James McGovern, Berrien County's attorney, told county commissioners Thursday.

"They can't miss how easy it is to make a FOIA request," McGovern said of the new state law that went into effect this year making obtaining documents more convenient and more affordable.

Commissioners will vote next week on a resolution approving the changes. If passed, FOIA request forms will be on the county website by June 30, McGovern said.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, Michigan, open records
June 19, 2015 9:14 AM

RICHMOND – A Virginia law that allows government officials, from the governor to mayors to college presidents, to shield a wide swath of documents from public view deserves a closer look, a small state committee reviewing Virginia's Freedom of Information Act said Thursday.

This "working papers and correspondence" exemption allows chief executives, and members of the General Assembly, to withhold from the public letters, emails and other documents prepared for their "personal or deliberative use." The exemption is meant to protect working, but not final, drafts of a wide range of documents, but open government advocates have long considered it one of the widest and most widely abused loopholes in state public records law.  Continue>>>

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June 19, 2015 8:35 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Teachers unions are questioning the transparency and due process of a measure to permanently exempt teacher evaluations from public records requests.

The unions are asking the D.C. Council to hold public hearings before a June 30 vote on the Budget Support Act. The act includes a provision to exempt teacher evaluations, observations, ratings and data collection from D.C. Freedom of Information Act requests.

Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers Union, said passing the legislation is “sending a red flag to the D.C. community that they’re hiding information.”  Continue>>>

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June 18, 2015 9:26 AM

RICHMOND — A Daily Press push to open local government discussions about the performance of leaders was rejected Wednesday by a state panel studying Virginia's open meetings laws.

The proposal would have required the annual reviews of city managers, county administrators and school superintendents — as well as conversations about discipline, firings or raises for these local government CEOs — to be held in public. Current law allows public bodies to hold those conversations in closed session, then vote in open session with little to no public explanation.  Continue>>>

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June 18, 2015 9:10 AM

Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker is taking the wraps off his long-awaited social network for politics, Brigade, saying it is one step toward tackling a problem that his former company, Facebook, hasn’t managed to solve.

Parker said he’s been thinking about how technology can help better engage Americans in political life since about the time he started helping Mark Zuckerberg turn Facebook from a bare-bones website into the mammoth social platform it is now. Now he’s decided that the first step is getting people comfortable taking political stands online.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 2:06 PM

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he wants to increase “transparency and accountability” in the state’s campaign finance reporting process.

Balderas sent Secretary of State Dianna Duran a letter Wednesday describing what he sees as shortcomings in the current system of campaign finance reporting.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:58 PM

Multiple whistleblowers have come forward from the U.S. Marshals Service, claiming that leadership within the agency uses requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to retaliate against individuals because they sought to report various abuses of power.

Among the claims made by the whistleblowers is that the U.S. Marshals Service has a major problem with nepotism. One cited example is that Kimberly Beal, the agency’s assistant director, allegedly hired a family member to be an intern in her office and then approved multiple cross-country trips for the individual. Those trips are only supposed to be approved for criminal investigators. According to the whistleblowers, issues like these are regular occurrences within the U.S. Marshals Service.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:38 PM

AUGUSTA — Legislative leaders on both sides of the political aisle Tuesday defended a $6.7 billion state budget and tax bill crafted largely in secret negotiations between party leaders, saying they ran out of time to follow a more public process.

Changes to a budget bill that was previously approved on a 9-4 bipartisan vote of the Legislature's budget-writing Appropriations Committee came in the form of a series of amendments, including one that dramatically revamps the state's tax policy.  Continue>>>

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June 17, 2015 12:07 PM

HELENA, Mont. - Directors at six state agencies say they'll be ready to record their meetings when new transparency laws requiring them to do so take effect this year.

Five agencies must make video or audio recordings of their meetings available online or on television within one working day beginning July 1. They include the Board of Public Education, Board of Investments, teachers' and public employees' retirement boards and the Board of Regents.

The Board of Pardons and Parole's deadline is in October under a different law that came with funding and no deadline to publish the records.  Continue>>>

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