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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September 24, 2013 1:00 PM

From Masslive.com: PALMER - The Attorney General's Office has declined to investigate an Open Meeting Law complaint against the Palmer Redevelopment Authority lodged by Paul E. Burns regarding what he said were violations of requirements for quorums and for posting meetings, as well as the use of remote participation when it had not been formally adopted.

In the Sept. 18 letter to Burns, Hanne Rush, assistant attorney general in the division of open government, wrote that complaints alleging Open Meeting Law violations must be filed with the public body within 30 days of the alleged violation.

Visit Masslive.com for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:42 PM

From NorthJersey.com: A campaign to tweak the state's most prominent open-government acts continues in town hall.

Earlier this month, West Milford representatives renewed their opposition to proposed amendments for the state's Open Public Records (OPRA) and Open Public Meeting (OPMA) acts. Proposed by state Senators Joseph Pennacchio (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), bills S2512 and S2511 would introduce a bevy of changes – most notably renaming OPRA the Martin O'Shea Open Public Records and Transparency Act after the late public records advocate and former township resident.

Visit NorthJersey.com for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:38 PM

From Las Vegas Sun: A federal judge is siding with the Navy in its refusal to release some records about the 2011 burial at sea of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon this week turned down a bid by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, to get the records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Visit Las Vegas Sun for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:35 PM

From The Wall Street Journal: WASHINGTON—When SAC Capital Advisors LP was weighing an investment in Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., the hedge-fund firm contacted a source it knew would provide nonpublic information without blinking: the federal government.

An investment manager for an SAC affiliate asked the Food and Drug Administration last December for any "adverse event reports" for Vertex's recently approved cystic-fibrosis drug. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency had to hand over the material, which revealed no major problems. The bill: $72.50, cheaper than the price of two Vertex shares.

Visit The Wall Street Journal for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:29 PM

From The Hacker News: The US government, particularly the National Security Agency has been paying a French security firm for backdoors and zero day hacks.

According to a contract newly released in response to a Freedom of Information request, last year the NSA purchased a 12-month subscription to a "binary analysis and exploits service" sold by Vupen, a zero-day Exploit Seller based in France.

Visit The Hacker News for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:22 PM

From The Joplin Globe: JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Globe filed an open records request more than a year ago to try to determine whether a Joplin City Council member or any other public officials were involved in a five-year gambling and public corruption probe conducted by the FBI.

The Globe also sought the FBI documents under the Freedom of Information Act to determine whether the probe shed any light on the disappearance of $63,000 from the Jasper County Drug Task Force and files missing from the Joplin Police Department regarding that case.

Visit The Jopline Globe for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:18 PM

From The Nation: In the two years since the ALEC Exposed project revealed the role that the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council plays in shaping the laws of states across the nation, the group has had a much harder time hiding its meddling.

In fact, so much national attention has been paid to ALEC’s role in promoting restrictive voter ID laws and controversial Stand Your Ground initiatives that ALEC officials announced last year that they would shut down the task force that was responsible for promoting those measures.

But ALEC is still putting representatives of corporations together with state legislators to craft “model legislation”—especially with regard to economic and regulatory issues. And the group’s national treasurer has come up with a novel scheme for keeping the projects secret.

Visit The Nation for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:07 PM

From Highlands Today: AVON PARK, FL. - Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon believes the time to wait is over in his recommendation to file a lawsuit in connection with his public records request of police pension plan officials.

In a Sept. 18 letter to the City Council, Deleon said it has been more than seven weeks since a public records request was initiated from police pension board administrator Carol Knapp and board chairman Greg Warner.

Visit Highland Today for more.

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September 23, 2013 3:03 PM

From Norwalk Reflector: The Huron County Airport Authority board members decided Wednesday to try and take their case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Recently, the 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo ruled the prior airport authority was responsible for the improper and unauthorized destruction of public records at the airport.

Visit Norwalk Reflector for more.

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September 23, 2013 2:58 PM

From TimesReporter.com: NEW PHILADELPHIA — The Tuscarawas County commissioners, along with Tuscarawas County departments, are transparent, according to Ohio Auditor Dave Yost.

Commissioners were audited in March, along with 19 other counties and cities, for their compliance with Ohio Sunshine Laws, or public record laws.

Visit TimesReporter.com for more.

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September 20, 2013 9:27 AM

From New England First Amendment Coalition: PROVIDENCE, R.I. - James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who's done ground-breaking work on domestic spying and now faces legal peril for refusing to disclose the source for his account of a failed CIA operation in Iran, will receive the 2014 Stephen Hamblett Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition.

An investigative reporter for The New York Times, Risen was told by a divided 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to identify his source and testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who's charged with leaking classified information to Risen in violation of the Espionage Act, a dusty law cited with new frequency by the administration in efforts to crack down on leakers. Risen, despite the threat of imprisonment, has refused.

"James Risen is not just one of the best investigative reporters in the country. He is a journalist of enormous principle and courage, so committed to the public's right to know that he is willing to sacrifice his own freedom in defense of the freedoms that make it possible for all journalists to hold government officials and institutions accountable,'' said Walter V. Robinson, chairman of the New England First Amendment Coalition committee that recommended Risen for the Hamblett award.

Robinson, now a distinguished professor of journalism at Northeastern University, led The Boston Globe Spotlight Team that won the 2003 Pulitzer for public service for exposing the Roman Catholic Church clergy sexual abuse scandal.

[...]

He was part of The Times team that won a Pulitzer in 2002 for explanatory reporting for coverage of the Sept.11 attacks and terrorism. He shared the 2006 prize in national reporting with Times reporter Eric Lichtblau for revealing President Bush's legally questionable domestic wiretapping program.

Risen is the fourth recipient of the Hamblett award, named for the late publisher and chief executive of The Providence Journal. Earlier recipients were retired New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who died March 25; Martin Baron, former editor of The Boston Globe and now executive editor of The Washington Post; and Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder and the architect of cable news channel NECN.

The awards luncheon will be held Feb. 7 in conjunction with the winter conference of the New England Newspaper and Press Association.

Visit New England First Amendment Coalition at their new website for more.

The New England First Amendment Coalition is a member of NFOIC. --eds

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September 20, 2013 9:19 AM

From NFOIC:  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.

York (VA) supervisors' planned secret meetings with business execs raise questions

image of Access keyYORK, VA — A request by the parent company of the former Yorktown refinery to meet privately and secretly with members of the York County Board of Supervisors next week has raised questions about open government practices and what's next for the facility. According to emails between York County officials and the supervisors, executives from Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline requested to meet with members of the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 27. The purpose of the meeting, according to the emails, is to brief the supervisors on the improvements and plans for the facility, which the company is converting to an oil transportation terminal.

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Arizona Republic, 12 News sue for Yarnell records

The Arizona Republic and 12 News have filed suit against the Yavapai County Sheriff’s and Medical Examiner’s offices over their refusal to release investigative records from the Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy that left 19 hotshots dead. The two Gannett news organizations allege in a civil complaint filed Wednesday in Yavapai County Superior Court that diagrams, some photographs and other documents are public records under state law, and Arizona residents have a compelling interest in learning what led to the demise of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots nearly three months ago.

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Editorial: Open meetings should stay open (VA)

Last week, Virginia’s FOIA Advisory Council declined to take up Hanover County’s request to review the definition of a public meeting. Hanover’s seven-member board of supervisors originally voted to ask the legislature to change the statute that prohibits more than two elected officials from meeting to discuss public business, a change that would impact every elected body in the state and would diminish transparency in every county, city and incorporated town.

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University of Washington fined $723,000 for withholding records

SEATTLE (AP) — A King County judge fined the University of Washington $723,000 for withholding public records from a faculty member who sued because she believed she was wrongfully denied tenure at the Tacoma campus. The documents turned up after Isabelle Bichindaritz lost her discrimination lawsuit in federal court, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

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Future bright for open data movement (CA)

California is home to the Innovation capital of the world—the Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs and innovators spend countless hours creating new technology that brings the people closer to their state and local governments. That technology, coupled with a raised expectation with citizens for more transparency and accountability, has ignited a movement called open data or open government. Municipalities throughout the state have moved to provide data to the people. San Francisco is one of the first cities to hire a Chief Innovation Officer. The City also has an open data policy. The city of Palo Alto has an extensive open data platform.

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The News Tribune wins Washington First Amendment award

SEATTLE (AP) — The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., is the winner of this year's Ted Natt First Amendment Award for its commitment to fighting for access to public records and the principles of open government. The award presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association in Seattle honored the paper for its defense of the First Amendment and deep reporting on a wide range of issues.

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Editorial: A victory for open government in Washington

During last fall’s general election, we were heartened that both candidates for state attorney general, Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn, promised to restore to full-time status the position of open government assistant attorney general. Ferguson won the election, and this week he made good on the promise. Then-Attorney General Rob McKenna created the position in 2005 to help the public get better access to government information. The job also is designed to assist in resolving disputes and to answer questions from the public, media and government staff. Budget cutbacks during the recent economic recession prompted McKenna to make the job half-time.

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Springfield (IL) police chief says he resisted document destruction

Soon-to-be-retired Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams voiced concerns about destroying certain internal affairs files but was overruled, according to a transcript of his sworn deposition obtained by The State Journal-Register. Williams said the decision to shred the files, including those of now-Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher, came during a meeting attended by then-Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen, Buscher, Williams and Bill Logan, the mayor’s executive assistant.

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Local women's league sponsors FOIA forum (VA)

Today, for the first time at the local level, the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County will be sponsoring an event for the public on open government and the Freedom of Information Act. It is a topic that affects all citizens, but by being more informed, community members can make an even bigger difference in local government.

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N.M. open government group sues to force audit release

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of an audit that identified potential overbillings and fraud by providers of mental health and substance abuse services. The Human Services Department has frozen payments to more than a dozen behavioral health providers because of the fraud allegations.

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