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

March 15, 2013 1:36 PM


This is Sunshine Week, the one week in the year when open-government advocates celebrate the concept that government should operate in the open and that secrecy in government is bad government.


Earle Duncan Getchell Jr. is Virginia's solicitor general, the lawyer who represents our state when legal disputes go before the high courts. Last month, Getchell was arguing that Virginia's Freedom of Information Act can be invoked only by Virginians and out-of-staters are out of luck.

The case was before the U.S. Supreme Court and, at one point during the ubiquitous sparring with the justices, Getchell remarked that Freedom of Information laws were "very much the fad." I think I know what fads are. They are trivial matters. CB radios were a fad. The hula hoop was a fad, as was the Rubik's Cube.

March 15, 2013 1:32 PM

From The Progressive Pulse:

Public records in the North Carolina offer a chance to peer into the depths of state government, and see what is and what isn’t working.

It’s what I use daily in the work I do here as an investigative reporter at N.C. Policy Watch. Access to public records have proven instrumental in reporting pieces I’ve done about the (now former) state legislator who benefitted substantially from a federally- funded non-profit he ran, a Winston-Salem public charter school that recruited basketball players from around the world and a trip to Florida that an educational reform lobbying group paid for a group of lawmakers to go on last year.

This week being Sunshine Week, the annual check-in to see how open and transparent governments are, I thought it a good a time as any to wax poetic about the virtues of transparency.

March 15, 2013 1:27 PM


WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are now posting their stock transactions online on a regular basis to comply with a law enacted 11 months ago to curtail illegal insider trading by lawmakers and their staffs.

Among the 13 House members and two senators in New Jersey’s congressional delegation, three have filed “periodic transaction reports” since the law took effect: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican, and Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat.


The new postings are part of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which became law last April. They’re also an example of the open information that is promoted as part of Sunshine Week, an annual media initiative to encourage increased public access to government records.

March 15, 2013 1:22 PM

From FCW:

The Center for Effective Government on March 13 released a report on the government's Freedom of Information Act response efforts, finding that agencies processed more FOIA in 2012 than in previous years, and that backlogs have declined even as the number of requests has grown. But more requests are being redacted, the report found, and the cost of FOIA processing varied widely from agency to agency.

The data "suggests there may some economies of scale in processing FOIA requests," the report states, but volume alone does not explain the variations -- the State Department spent more than four times as much to process each request as did the National Archives and Records Administration, which responded to roughly the same number of inquiries.

March 15, 2013 1:17 PM


A recent New Jersey Watchdog investigation revealed 45 “retired” school chiefs had returned to the public payroll, double-dipping millions of dollars a year from pension funds and local education budgets.

By using a loophole in state law, the retirees landed lucrative, post-retirement jobs as interim, or temporary, superintendents. One example was a superintendent paid $108,230 a year for a three-day work week – in addition to her state pension checks of $131,964 per annum as a retired superintendent.

“It’s the way the system is set up,” said the double-dipper. “I took advantage of it.”

March 15, 2013 1:13 PM

From Nextgov:

Crowing about the success of a program or initiative doesn’t mean much if you don’t have hard numbers to back up those claims. That’s a lesson every field learns eventually and most have to relearn on a regular basis.

With that in mind I wanted to draw attention to a proposal from the organization Global Integrity submitted as part of the Knight Foundation’s open government News Challenge. Global Integrity’s goal is not to create a new open government app but to embark on a comprehensive assessment of government transparency programs that already exist so governments and open government advocates can move beyond “increasingly stale stories and one-off narratives” and start working toward a genuine cost-benefit analysis of open government programs.

March 15, 2013 1:07 PM

From The Center for Media and Democracy's PRWatch:

“If Wisconsin were not known as the Dairy State it could be known, and rightfully so, as the Sunshine State," the Wisconsin Supreme Court observed in 2010. "All branches of Wisconsin government have, over many years, kept a strong commitment to transparent government.”

But just in time for Sunshine Week 2013, GOP leaders in the state are showing how they are failing that proud tradition.

The secret email system in Scott Walker's County Executive office has remained secret. The system was used in the runup to Walker's 2010 gubernatorial election to coordinate messaging between campaign staff and county employees, and has been a key piece of evidence in the "John Doe" investigation that resulted in charges for six people. Although legitimate campaign-related emails are not covered by the state's open records law, anything related to public business should be accessible to the public -- and evidence indicates that a significant amount of the public's work was conducted over the secret system.

March 15, 2013 1:02 PM

From DCist:

It's been almost two years since the D.C. Open Meetings Act took effect, instituting new requirements that all city bodies and agencies had to follow to ensure that the public had as much access to their work as possible. But how well are those agencies doing in complying with the law?

Not very, according to an audit of 27 public bodies conducted by the D.C. Open Government Coalition and released yesterday during a summit on transparency in government. The coalition found that only one of the bodies it looked at—the Historic Preservation Review Board—complied fully with the provisions of the law mandating notice for meetings, advance agendas, and posted minutes and other records of the meetings.

D.C. Open Government Coalition is a member of NFOIC.--eds.


March 15, 2013 1:02 PM

Opinion from The Nashville City Paper:

For months last year, I kept asking members of the Coalition for Open Government and the Tennessee Press Association if they knew anything about the history of the Tennessee Public Records Act of 1957.

I found details about the TPRA and what it covered, but little in the way of context until I visited the Tennessee State Library and Archives and began reading about who developed the legislation and how it was enacted. And, yes, TPA was the driving force behind it.

During the summer convention of 1956, TPA began an ambitious campaign to make state and local government records and meetings more accessible to citizens.

The effort was lead by Carl A. Jones, then publisher of the Johnson City Press-Chronicle and incoming TPA president, and Coleman Harwell, editor of The Nashville Tennessean and chairman of the organization’s FOI Committee.

Kent Flanagan is executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

March 15, 2013 12:52 PM

From Santa Fe Reporter:

On Wednesday, the Legislative Council Service provided SFR with relatively few of the legislative emails sought in a public-records request filed last Friday. The LCS says the rest of the emails were “exempt from disclosure,” even though the response was sent before lawmakers approved a rule effectively exempting them from public-records reqeusts.

SFR published an article this week on how House Concurrent Resolution 1, sponsored by House Minority Leader Don Bratton, R-Lea, and House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Cibola, will likely limit the public’s access to lawmakers’ emails and other written communications.


Gwyneth Doland, Executive Director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, tells SFR she has not heard of IPRA responses from LCS mentioning the Speech or Debate Clause. She also says NMFOG and the AG may "end up in a lawsuit" against HCR 1.

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

March 15, 2013 12:44 PM

From Columbia Basin Herald:

MOSES LAKE - Living in a digital age has its benefits. The internet puts the information a user wants virtually at their fingertips. People have immediate access to scores from the latest game, the stock market and the news, among a myriad of other information available on the web.

But what about public records? Can the average citizen pull up minutes from the latest city council meeting just as easily as they could their local weather?

The answer to that question, unfortunately, depends, said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. While federal and state agencies often provide access to digital records on their websites, Nixon said smaller local agencies might not offer that convenience.

March 15, 2013 12:40 PM

From The Topeka Capital-Journal:

A coalition of city and county government officials objected Wednesday to Senate legislation endorsed by news-gathering organizations to create statewide thresholds for compliance with the Kansas meetings and records laws.

The outpouring of opposition primarily reflected the original draft of Pittsburg Sen. Jacob LaTurner’s bill, which would have prohibited governmental entities from charging for staff time to comply with Kansas Open Records Act requests and established a fee of no more than 25 cents per page for copied material.

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