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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July 5, 2013 8:38 AM

From The Oakland Press:  When Oakland Township resident Marc Edwards was curious to know what official business his township officials were discussing via email, he decided to send a Freedom of Information Act request to the township to obtain documentation.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, commonly called “FOY-ah”), was created to give the public access to government and public records, but potentially high costs for obtaining the information can cause financial burdens for some and restrict access to public information.

For Edwards, that cost was nearly $2,500 for two FOIA requests.

 

July 5, 2013 8:34 AM

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  Federal health officials broke federal laws by stonewalling legal attempts to learn how they created new rules requiring employers to pay for insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion, according to lawyers representing the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, lawyers for the diocese, including its Catholic Charities group and its Catholic Cemeteries Association, claim federal administrators of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention purposely created extraordinary and illegal barriers to their client obtaining public information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

 

July 5, 2013 8:28 AM

Photo of Amy BennettFrom Amy Bennett (of OpenTheGovernment.org) via Battle Creek Inquirer: This year’s graduating seniors entered college just before the Obama administration began. But while these successful graduates are now ready to move on to the next stage in their lives, the administration hasn’t achieved the same kind of progress on one of its signature initiatives: creating open government.

On his first day in office, President Obama committed his administration to creating “unprecedented levels of openness in government.” And even though his record on open government issues has been far from spotless, particularly in areas of national security, his administration has at least pushed for substantive change.

[...]

To put it in terms in which recent graduates might relate, the Obama administration turned in some great assignments, but its coursework for core classes remains incomplete.

 

July 5, 2013 8:23 AM

From Jeff Larson at ProPublica:  Shortly after the Guardian and Washington Post published their Verizon and PRISM stories, I filed a freedom of information request with the NSA seeking any personal data the agency has about me. I didn't expect an answer, but yesterday I received a letter signed by Pamela Phillips, the Chief FOIA Officer at the agency (which really freaked out my wife when she picked up our mail).

The letter, a denial, includes what is known as a Glomar response -- neither a confirmation nor a denial that the agency has my metadata. It also warns that any response would help “our adversaries” ...

 

June 28, 2013 12:56 PM

From Knight Foundation:  CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – (June 24, 2013) – Knight Foundation today named eight projects as winners of the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov, awarding the recipients more than $3.2 million for their ideas.

The projects will provide new tools and approaches to improve the way people and governments interact. They tackle a range of issues from making it easier to open a local business to creating a simulator that helps citizens visualize the impact of public policies on communities.

“While technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, it is only beginning to affect the civic sphere,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation’s vice president for journalism and media innovation. “We see a tremendous opportunity in developing new technologies and approaches that can reinvent the way people relate to their governments, provide journalists the information they need and ultimately strengthen our democracy.” Maness announced the winners June 24 at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference at the MIT Media Lab.

Please see here for the full article.

 

June 28, 2013 12:47 PM

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.

 

Acting ND University System chancellor says NDSU president emails are not gone for good

BISMARCK, North Dakota — More than 45,000 emails reportedly deleted from the email account of North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani at the time of a state open records request are not gone for good, the interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System says. ... The emails are the subject of a state investigation into whether NDSU violated open records laws by deleting emails from Bresciani's inbox that might have been subject to a legislative public records request. The request came during months of controversy over the alleged overbearing leadership style of then-Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, whose contract has since been bought out by the state Board of Higher Education.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

ACLU files appeal in request for city SWAT records

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed an appeal in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court seeking records from the Pittsburgh police department. According to the filing, the ACLU submitted a request under the state Right to Know Law seeking records from the city's SWAT team and on acquisition of "cutting-edge weapons technology."

Visit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the rest.

Jacksonville expects fast end to Sunshine lawsuit, general counsel says

A Times-Union lawsuit that argues Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown broke the state’s Sunshine Law could be resolved by late July or August, the city’s top lawyer told a City Council committee Thursday. ... The suit says the pension proposal was the result of illegal secret negotiations. Times-Union Editor Frank Denton filed the suit because state law requires Sunshine cases to be brought by a Florida resident.

Visit The Florida Times-Union for the rest.

Northampton Community College locks down email addresses after records ruling

Northampton Community College will take steps to keep its students' email addresses private after an open records decision required administrators to provide the information to a Bucks County activist. The idea their email addresses could be released for commercial or political purposes outraged some students, who wrote to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records in an effort to influence its decision, said Helene Whitaker, the school's vice president for administrative affairs.

Visit The Morning Call for the rest.

Governor says he supports open records, meetings, but does not want state bearing the costs

SACRAMENTO, California — Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that he is committed to keeping government transparent but wants to do so without costing the state money. Brown made his first public comments about the California Public Records Act after lawmakers backtracked on a bill that would have made it optional, instead of mandatory, for local governments to comply with document requests.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Judge orders records in Lloyd case to be kept from public

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — A day after his co-counsel, Michael Fee, issued an email rant at the media for "a flood of rumors, misinformation and false reports," defense attorney Jamie Sultan made a 15-minute visit to their client's home Tuesday, driving away without a word to the two dozen reporters camped outside the home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Meanwhile, five miles away at the Attleboro District Courthouse, clerk magistrate Mark E. Sturdy issued a statement saying that all records handled by his office that relate to the investigation into the homicide of Odin Lloyd have been impounded by court order.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

June 28, 2013 9:57 AM

From NMFOG:  The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has a new executive director.

The Foundation's Board of Directors has hired Terry Schleder as the organization’s new Executive Director.

Terry has a keen understanding of the need for transparency in government having worked in it for more than 13 years. Schleder has a history of non-profit leadership in New Mexico. He has had success growing organizations in order to better serve their mission, which will help bring NMFOG to the next level.   

“Terry brings a wealth of organization leadership to the NMFOG and a strong understanding of our mission, said Terri Cole, President of the FOG Board.  Schleder presented organization plans to the FOG search committee for 1, 3 and 5 years out which were well thought out and showed a strategy of growth for the organization and broader understanding of the Sunshine Laws in our state.  “I’m excited to begin my career with NMFOG. Open government is at the heart of our democracy, and I can’t wait to get started.”  

Schleder has been a health advocate and policy consultant in NM since 2000, working as the field director for the NM Alliance for Retired Americans since 2009. He has worked in and with state government in the Department of Health since receiving his Masters’ in Public Health from the UNM School of Medicine.

Schleder will start with NM FOG on July 10.

 

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

 

June 28, 2013 9:44 AM

From Courthouse News Service:  SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology watchdog, wants the Justice Department to hand over facial-recognition records before switching on the FBI's "bigger, faster and better" biometrics system.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Justice in a federal FOIA complaint. It claims the FBI has been "dragging its feet" for a year on three FOIA requests.

The EFF says in the complaint that the FBI has given a presentation "which included a graphic image that implied the Bureau wanted to use facial recognition to be able to track people from one political rally to another."

The EFF says it wants to "shine the light" on the FBI's biometrics program - slated for launch in 2014 - and particularly its facial-recognition components.

 

June 28, 2013 9:39 AM

From The Washington Post:  WASHINGTON — A senator who has been instrumental in the fight for open government warned Wednesday that the government’s practice of “vacuuming up the phone records of millions of law-abiding Americans” puts citizens’ privacy at risk.

During a panel sponsored by the American Society of News Editors, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said while the information collected by the National Security Agency involves phone numbers, location and time of the call, it might also contain vital personal details, such as relationships, medical issues, religious matters or political affiliations.

[...]

The Sunshine in Government Initiative, a group of nine media organizations including the ASNE, presented its annual award to Wyden for his work in stripping several provisions from the Fiscal Year 2012 Intelligence Authorization Act that would have significantly lessened reporters’ ability to access even unclassified information.

 

June 26, 2013 9:49 AM

From NewsTimes.com:  Three advocates of open government and three investigative journalists were honored recently by the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information at its annual meeting in Hartford.

The council gave its Champion of Open Government award to two former members of the state Freedom of Information Commission, Norma Riess of Redding and Sherman London, whose terms recently expired and who were not reappointed by Gov. Dannell P. Malloy. London, former editorial page editor of the Waterbury Republican-American, served on the commission for 17 years, the longest-serving member in the commission's history.

 

June 26, 2013 9:00 AM

From KTVU.com:  A state Senate committee on Tuesday advanced a swiftly drafted constitutional amendment that would affirm the public's right to inspect documents held by local governments and clarifying that those agencies — not the state — should pay for making their records available.

The amendment passed the Senate Governance and Finance Committee on a 7-0 vote.

Representatives of local agencies told the panel they are concerned about the potential costs of complying with state public records requirements that could be expanded in the future.

Those requirements do not apply to the Legislature, which is subject to a different set of open records rules, said Dan Carrigg of the League of California Cities.

 

June 24, 2013 10:41 AM

From NJ.com:  With the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s widespread monitoring of U.S. citizens, a pair of bills that give New Jersey residents a clearer picture of government goings on could not be timelier.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg expects to post two measures that would fine-tune laws protecting the public’s right to know this week for a full Senate vote.

The first offers amendments to the Open Public Records Act in three areas, while the second updates provisions in the Open Public Meetings Law.

Among the changes is one to prevent government workers with black markers from blotting out information that should be available to the public. It calls for redacted materials to be accompanied by an affidavit with details about the document — including the specific and lawful basis for each redaction.

 

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