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 9, 2015 1:03 PM

Almost seven weeks into the legislative session, no fewer than 25 bills have been introduced that would affect open meetings, open records or public notice advertising in Iowa.

The bill that has received the most attention is one being fast-tracked that would seal data on Iowa's concealed weapons permit holders. But other bills are lurking in the wings that also would erode openness in our state's government.

Among them:

House study bill 162 would allow anyone to file a written request to prohibit their name, address and telephone number from being accessed on county Internet sites.
Senate file 385 would expand confidentiality of court records, allowing for the expungement of not-guilty verdicts and dismissed criminal charges.
Senate file 292 would make confidential certain juvenile court records.
House study bill 167 would seal records of applications to erect cell phone towers and infrastructure. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2015 12:56 PM

While Rick Perry has joined Republicans casting stones at Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while she was secretary of state, it seems the former governor is not without sin.

Perry was among the first potential 2016 presidential candidates to chime in on revelations that Clinton conducted government business entirely on a personal email account. On Tuesday morning, Perry said the findings add to a “pattern ... of non-transparency” surrounding Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

“It’s an ethical issue that’s going to have to be addressed,” Perry said during an interview on Fox News, tying the issue to other revelations about the Clinton Foundation taking money from foreign countries while she was the United States’ top diplomat. Continue>>>
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March 9, 2015 9:25 AM

Can open records laws be used to access all of the e-mails sent by Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state?

A new court ruling this week suggests: probably not.

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative organization, could not use the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the private email of a government official. The judge reasoned that the act can be used only to get email that is held by a government agency. Continue>>>
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March 6, 2015 2:54 PM

A Kentucky federal judge on Tuesday booted Texas Roadhouse Inc.'s suit against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly failing to hand over documents related to its age discrimination case against the restaurant chain, saying the company must first exhaust its administrative remedies.

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. granted the EEOC’s motion to dismiss without prejudice, finding the EEOC did, in fact, respond on Oct. 9 to Texas Roadhouse’s first three Freedom of Information Act requests — filed in July and August — aiming to dig up records behind the EEOC's 2011 age bias suit against Texas Roadhouse. The agency responded to the FOIA requests more than a week after Texas Roadhouse filed the instant suit alleging it hadn’t received a single page of the requested documents.

“Contrary to Texas Roadhouse assertions, the court finds that Texas Roadhouse did not challenge the adequacy of the EEOC’s belated production of documents in its amended complaint,” Judge McKinley said in the order. “Instead, Texas Roadhouse alleges in both the complaint and amended complaint that the EEOC ‘failed to provide either a determination regarding, or the documents responsive, to plaintiffs’ funds request.’” Continue>>>
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March 6, 2015 1:03 PM

A House investigative committee said it has records containing two different e-mail addresses used by former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It issued subpoenas Wednesday to find out more about Clinton's use of her private e-mail system to conduct public business.

The State Department denied Clinton used more than one e-mail address, which Clinton herself controlled on her own server at clintonemail.com.

"That is false. There was just one e-mail account," State spokeswoman Marie Harf said. She said Clinton's use of a private e-mail was not prohibited during her four-year tenure. Continue>>>
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March 6, 2015 12:57 PM

Washington State Archives has announced a series of open government training workshops in Eastern Washington this month in support of a state law introduced by the State Attorney General’s Office and passed in 2014.

#The Open Government Trainings Act requires training for public officials, public disclosure officers and state-appointed records officers.

#The free workshops provide an overview of the rules and requirements of records retention and management, open public meetings and the Public Records Act. Continue>>>
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March 6, 2015 12:53 PM

With Sunshine Week less than two weeks away, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and Wisconsin Reporter are pursuing legal action that aims to open up government records to the public.

On Tuesday, WILL, a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm, on behalf of Wisconsin Reporter, filed a lawsuit against Jefferson County and its policy calling for the wholesale redaction of identifying information from routine police reports and citations.

WILL and Wisconsin Reporter contend the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department illegally redacted information identifying a Germantown kindergarten teacher who vandalized GOP signs at the Jefferson County Fair in July 2014. Continue>>>
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March 6, 2015 12:48 PM

Two top congressional chairmen demanded Wednesday that the IRS turn over all its emails that might have given private taxpayer information to the White House, after President Obama’s lawyer last week passed the buck to the tax agency, insisting they would be able to search for the emails.

The IRS last year had claimed it didn’t have the technological ability to search for those emails, so Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan went to the White House for them. In letters last month White House lawyer W. Neil Eggleston declined, saying he was certain the IRS would be able to respond.

So the two lawmakers went back to the tax agency in a letter Wednesday, saying it’s up to them to comply. Continue>>>
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March 6, 2015 12:39 PM

Celebrating Sunshine Week 2015, the National Press Club's Freedom of the Press Committee will join with the D.C. Open Government Coalition to present the fourth annual "D.C. Open Government Summit" on March 17 from 6 to 8:30pm in the National Press Club's First Amendment Lounge.

The event is also co-sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists' D.C. Professional Chapter.

The D.C. Open Government Summit will focus on the state of government transparency in the District of Columbia. The event will open with remarks on open government priorities for the Bowser Administration, and will include a look at how open government data is helping D.C. organizations create tools and websites to enhance information sharing with the public. Attendees will be invited to weigh in with their thoughts on these and other topics. Continue>>>
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March 5, 2015 5:15 PM

The village of Oakley has given an attorney 145 names of people identified as applying to be village police reservists.

The village in southern Saginaw County, with a population of 290, has fought a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for nearly two years to keep the names of its reservists and donors to the police department secret. Two additional FOIA lawsuits were filed in recent months.

Oakley sent a document containing 110 pages of applications for the Oakley Police Department's reserve officer/critical incident response team to Hemlock attorney Philip Ellison on Feb. 26 in response to citizens Shannon and Brandi Bitterman's Freedom of Information Act requests. It is not known if all of the applicants were approved as reserve officers. Continue>>>
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March 5, 2015 4:33 PM

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t the only one apparently baffled by newfangled technologies such as email (see nearby). In a withering ruling on Monday, a federal judge scored the Environmental Protection Agency for its contempt for its legal obligation to disclose documents and then lying to the courts about its stonewalling.

In 2012 the right-leaning Landmark Legal Foundation made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails related to regulations and the forthcoming election. As many suspected at the time and we now know, the White House commanded the agency to delay major anticarbon rules so the details couldn’t be debated in front of voters, thus undermining political accountability for the economic damage.

The EPA spent years attempting to deny Landmark a meaningful response, starting with the receipt of the FOIA request. The agency’s FOIA officer waited weeks before informing the offices of then EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and her deputies of the obligation to retain documents. The agency subsequently refused to search either the official email accounts of top officials or the alias personal email addresses they used to conduct government business—“for reasons still unexplained,” Judge Royce Lamberth observes in a 25-page finding against the agency. Continue>>>
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March 5, 2015 4:30 PM

Actions taken by the Aiken County Board of Education appear to have violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act during an executive session Tuesday at a special called meeting.


By a vote of seven to two, with board members Tad Barber and Richard Hazen opposing the motion, the board voted to go into executive session to discuss any contractual aspects of a response to a proposal by the Public Education Partners to sponsor information input sessions concerning the hiring of a new district superintendent. It was never clear what contractual elements there may have been to that proposal, if any.


Before the vote to close the meeting, Barber asked School Board attorney Bill Burkhalter if there was “still a reason” to go into executive session based on a change to the request. Continue>>>
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