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

May 29, 2013 1:58 PM

From New Mexico Foundation for Open Government:  (May 24, 2013) The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is now accepting nominations for the 2013 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award.

Nominations must be received by July 16, 2013. Nomination letters should discuss how the person has advanced the cause of open government or free-speech rights in New Mexico. Awards are given in the areas of education, law, government, business and journalism. Nominations will also be accepted to recognize an organization and a citizen.

If you know someone who deserves the 2013 Dixon Award, submit a nomination letter describing the person's accomplishments or initiatives to Award recipients will be selected by a panel of FOG directors and honored at an awards banquet on Oct. 2, 2013.

Please see the rest here.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

May 29, 2013 1:45 PM

From the California First Amendment Coalition:  (May 20, 2013) The real outrage about the Justice Department’s use of secret subpoenas for the phone records of Associated Press journalists is that, based on the information that has surfaced to date, it was probably legal.

Under federal law the Justice Department needs only a subpoena–a piece of paper that a US Attorney generates unilaterally, without any court authorization–to obtain from phone companies and other service providers the call logs for customers. This includes essentially the same information you see on your monthly bill–numbers dialed, calls received, duration and times of calls.

Although federal prosecutors need a court’s OK to obtain the content of phone communications (and most, but not all, email communications), nothing in the relevant federal statute (the Stored Communications Act) requires a prosecutor to satisfy preconditions or to submit to judicial oversight when subpoenaing “metadata” associated with a phone number.

Also relevant are Justice Department guidelines for issuing subpoenas to the media. The guidelines, adopted in the 1970s, contain meaningful (albeit mainly procedural) limits on prosecutors’ discretion. However, the guidelines are just voluntary internal policies, without the force of law. Even if prosecutors failed to follow the guidelines in the AP matter–which is possible, perhaps probable–that dereliction and $2 will buy AP a cup of coffee.

What about the constitution? The Supreme Court dispensed with your Fourth Amendment right to privacy in this area long ago in an obscure and regrettable decision, Smith v. Maryland (1979). The Court ruled that phone company customers have no legitimate privacy interest in phone record data that are in the hands of a third-party, like a phone company.

Please see the rest here.

Peter Scheer is executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition. The First Amendment Coalition is a member of NFOIC. --eds


May 24, 2013 1:39 PM

From FOX News:  Newly uncovered court documents reveal the Justice Department seized records of several Fox News phone lines as part of a leak investigation -- even listing a number that, according to one source, matches the home phone number of a reporter's parents.

The seizure was ordered in addition to a court-approved search warrant for Fox News correspondent James Rosen's personal emails. In the affidavit seeking that warrant, an FBI agent called Rosen a likely criminal "co-conspirator," citing a wartime law called the Espionage Act.


May 24, 2013 1:18 PM

We're sorry we missed our usual State FOIA Friday last week (May 17) but we were otherwise occupied in New Orleans for the annual FOI Summit.

A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.


UW-Madison seeks limits on open records regarding research

Madison — The University of Wisconsin-Madison is seeking to limit the state's open records law — potentially through language slipped into the state budget — to keep some research information from the public until it is published or patented. No specific incidents of harmful disclosures were cited in language for possible legislation that is being passed among Republican lawmakers and was obtained by the Journal Sentinel.

Visit Journal Sentinel for the rest.

Closing the door on open gov

Mayor Bob Filner’s formal push for government transparency appears all but dead with the departure of the two officials leading the effort. As a candidate, Filner pledged to create an atmosphere of openness at City Hall with regular office hours and greater access to details on government happenings. Central to those plans was the open government department, a mayoral division Filner said would ensure residents get easy access to city documents and details on the workings of city government.

Visit Voice of San Diego for the rest.

Editorial: Lakeland police public records: Cat and mouse

Lakeland residents are right back where they started in January, unable to trust their Police Department to provide records to the public, as required by Florida law. Worse, confidence in the Circuit Court is hard to hold because the chief judge has refused to release even the slimmest portion of a grand jury report on Lakeland Police and public records.

Visit The Ledger for the rest.

Records: Driver in fatal III. van wreck had license suspended for administrative reasons

A New Jersey man behind the wheel of a van that overturned on an Illinois freeway, killing five passengers returning from a California ministry gathering, had his driving privileges suspended last year for administrative reasons, motor vehicle records show. Illinois State Police have refused to publicly identify the driver ticketed for improper lane usage and driving with a suspended license Monday's wreck on Interstate 70, citing an ongoing investigation a spokeswoman said could take weeks. However, The Associated Press obtained that citation, which was issued to 45-year-old Malcolm Purnell of Paterson, N.J. Public records suggest Purnell now lives in Camden, N.J.

Visit Fox News for the rest.

CA records law changes face opposition

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to save money by lifting certain requirements of the California Public Records Act is getting some pushback from at least one corner of the Legislature. Two years ago, an obscure state commission determined that the state must reimburse local governments if it requires them to assist the public with records requests and respond to them within 10 days.

Visit U-T San Diego for the rest.

The Records Man retires

The Texas Public Information Act requires public officials to respond to document requests quickly – within days and without lame excuses. Unfortunately, reporters get used to having to fight for records since bureaucrats tend to balk. They appeal to the Texas AG for permission to deny requests. They claim to lose them. They demand thousands of dollars in fees — in advance. Or they provide heavily censored or useless info. But that never happened with requests handled by the Harris County auditor’s office.

Visit Huston Chronicle for the rest.

Secretary of state Ross Miller accused of disclosure violation

A national Republican group has sued Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, claiming he failed to turn over records that should be made public detailing his travel, compensation, public schedule and cellphone use. The State Government Leadership Foundation, an affiliate of the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, accused the Democrat of accepting generous gifts and trying to hide his assets.

Visit Nevada Appeal for the rest.

May 24, 2013 12:03 PM

San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force has vacancies for an attorney and a journalist, both of whom must be nominated by the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.

The task force comprises 11 voting and two ex-officio non-voting members. The voting members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors and, under Sunshine Ordinance Sec. 67.30(a), "must have experience and/or demonstrated interest in the issues of citizen access and participation in local government."

San Francisco residency is usually required; the board has on occasion waived that criterion.

Applications are available from the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, City Hall Room 244, Board.of.Supervisors@sfgov. The open seats are Nos. 1 (attorney) and 2 (journalist).

The task force's job is to monitor how well City Hall complies with local and state sunshine laws, and to recommend to the board ways to
improve the ordinance (which is accessible at Because the ordinance was enacted by the voters (as Prop. G in November 1999), the board's power to amend it is extremely limited.


Richard Knee



May 23, 2013 2:47 PM

From  If you're a government with something to hide, there are plenty of shady ways to handle Freedom of Information Act requests. You can make sure your organization is legally allowed to carry guns and simply refuse, like the NYPD. You can also make a big deal about how requests are only honored for in-state residents, as if that were the spirit of the legislation. Or, if you're as big as the federal government, you can play a sort of bureaucratic hackey-sack game with the request for years before releasing the most non-useful information possible. The problem with all of these methods, however, is that they make those using them look petty, but they don't really cement their position in the corrupt jackasses category that I believe all government agencies secretly want to obtain.

Which is why we'll go to the Chicago city government, since they're the obvious experts in the matter. Here, Rahm Emanuel's administration has taken responding to FOIA requests to a whole new level, not only providing nothing in response to such requests, but then answering questions from the Attorney General with non-responses indicating they might just have proactively destroyed the documents being requested. This story begins with our vaunted public school system, the CPS. Glenn Krell wanted to get his hands on what research had been done when CPS put in a longer school day without bothering to give schools any resources to actually do anything with the extra time.


May 23, 2013 2:42 PM

From WIS:  FAIRFIELD COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A WIS investigation into allegations that the Fairfield County administrator had disseminated pornography from his tax payer-funded computer has ended with a $29,395 Freedom of Information Act charge.

In February, State Law Enforcement Division agents closed an investigation into administrator Phil Hinley's county email account after agents got a string of emails from an informant. The emails were sent from Hinley's "" account, which is a tax payer provided account for all county employees.


May 23, 2013 2:35 PM

From The Ledger:  LAKELAND | Five city commissioners say they want some answers about why the Lakeland Police Department continues to be embroiled in disputes over releasing public records.


The latest controversy came earlier this week when LPD refused for almost two days to release to The Ledger a robbery suspect's full arrest report, one of the most common public records produced by law enforcement.


May 23, 2013 2:32 PM

From The Detroit News:  Under state law, the only time the public gets to peek inside the inner workings of the Governor's Office is when its staffers send emails to employees of other state agencies, which are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Records obtained by The Detroit News through an FOIA request to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget included the correspondence of Gov. Rick Snyder's staff, who were debating how to respond to revelations of a secretive "skunk works" education reform group trying to develop a low-cost charter school that students would pay for with a voucher-like debit card.


May 23, 2013 2:29 PM

From The Salt Lake Tribune:  The operator of a website that publishes jail-booking pictures sued Salt Lake County on Tuesday for refusing his request for photographs of people admitted to the Salt Lake County Jail during 17 days in January.

Kyle Prall and his company, Information Freedom, LLC, are asking a 3rd District Court judge to overturn a County Council decision April 9 that upheld Sheriff Jim Winder’s rejection of an application — through the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) — for 1,388 "mug shots" of people booked into the jail between Jan. 11 and Jan. 27.


May 23, 2013 2:26 PM

From eNews Park Forest:  WASHINGTON--(ENEWSPF)--May 23 - Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Congress confirming that the government has killed four Americans since 2010 in strikes overseas, and claiming that the government’s actions were justified.

“This letter is evidence that Congress has a crucial oversight role, and that the executive branch is accountable to Congress and the American people. We applaud Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy for his insistence that the veil of secrecy be lifted on the government's killing program,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office.


May 23, 2013 2:04 PM

Editorial from  Newtown town clerk Debbie Aurelia is not just disregarding state law and years of tradition in withholding death certificates regarding the Dec. 14 Newtown massacre. In this ultimate act of arrogance, she is declaring that she knows best — she is the law.

Ms. Aurelia is refusing to honor requests to see death certificates of those who were murdered by Adam Lanza — even though death certificates by law or custom have always been open records.


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