FOI Advocate Blog

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 18, 2013 12:07 PM

From KPBS:

Marking Sunshine Week in San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner on Thursday unveiled a new section of the city website that makes good on his promise for open government—putting in one place information on the pensions being paid city retirees as well as all lawsuits involving City Hall.

With his open-government chief Donna Frye standing beside him, he displayed what Frye called one of the most transparent city sites in the state, if not the nation.

“It’s Sunshine Week every week in the city of San Diego,” said Frye, the former councilwoman, who said she is collecting an annual pension of $31,000 as well as a salary for her new job of about $100,000 a year.

March 15, 2013 12:06 PM


As national Sunshine Week begins, Californians interested in using their laws to keep an eye on city hall and other local and state public agencies can get a free 50-page how-to guide from the state's premier open government resource center.

Californians Aware (CalAware), the nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for "open government, an inquiring press, and a citizenry free to exchange facts and opinions," is offering--without charge through April 15--its newly published Citizen Watchdog.

This accessibly written primer on what the state's transparency laws say--with tips on how to use them confidently and effectively--is subtitled "A Bell-Proofer's Investigative Checklist."

The Californians Aware is a member of NFOIC. --eds

December 10, 2012 1:42 PM

From Society of Professional Journalists:

The James Madison Freedom of Information Awards recognize Northern California organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and expression in the spirit of James Madison, the creative force behind the First Amendment. SPJ NorCal presents the awards during National Freedom of Information Week near Madison’s birthday, March 16.

Eligible for nomination are Northern California individuals such as journalists, lay citizens, public officials, attorneys, educators, librarians, news organizations and community groups that, during 2012, have defended public access to meetings, public records or court proceedings or otherwise promoted the public’s right to know, publish and speak freely about issues of public concern.

For more information, please see the full press release here.

November 23, 2012 3:35 PM

We so liked the State FOIA Friday this week, we thought we'd give it this second and special edition.

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:

image of Access

Delaware water utility resolves public records fight, releases information on staff pay

CAMDEN, Del. (Nov 23, 2012) — A Delaware water and sewer authority has released public records on the salaries of its employees after a legal fight over whether the utility is a public body. The News Journal reports the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority provided wage and benefit information this week on its 12 full-time employees and two seasonal workers.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

San Diego Port says personal emails not public’s business

SAN DIEGO (Nov 23, 2012) — If U-T San Diego CEO John Lynch is still sending emails to the personal account of Port Commissioner and congressman-elect Scott Peters, you won’t know it. The Unified Port of San Diego has declined to release any communication about the public’s business that might exist in Peters’ personal accounts, saying state law doesn’t require it. But the issue isn’t that clear cut. Courts across the country are divided over public access to private accounts.

Visit KPBS for the rest.

Death row inmate loses FOIA lawsuit against FBI

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov 23, 2012) — A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the FBI's decision to redact information from records sought under the Freedom of Information Act by a Tennessee death row inmate. Inmate Michael Dale Rimmer sued the agency over records relating to an investigation they conducted into the death of a Memphis motel clerk in 1997. Rimmer was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the clerk, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth.

Visit for the rest.

Penn., N.J.: DRPA approves open-records policy, tighter controls on employee expenses

(Nov 22, 2012) — For the second time in as many months, the Delaware River Port Authority board has approved reform measures designed to make the agency more accountable and efficient. The latest steps, including an open-records policy and tighter rules on employee expense accounts, were approved Wednesday and are part of a continuing move to make changes requested more than two years ago by the governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Visit The Inquirer for the rest.

Ky. University Hospital is public entity subject to open-records law, judge rules

(Nov 21, 2012) — University Hospital is a public entity and subject to Kentucky’s open-records law, a senior judge ruled Wednesday in a victory for The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV and the ACLU of Kentucky. Judge Martin McDonald rejected University Hospital’s claim that it is a private corporation because it is controlled by a board of directors, rather than University of Louisville.

Visit for the rest.

Florida: Palm Coast stands by its attorney on Sunshine Law issue

PALM COAST (Nov 20, 2012) — The First Amendment Foundation emailed a letter to city officials Tuesday reiterating that the City Council violated the Sunshine Law in its appointment of David Ferguson to the council. Ferguson was sworn in during Tuesday's City Council meeting to the District 2 seat. Ferguson, 60, was appointed to the seat last week even though an attorney for the First Amendment Foundation warned that the city had violated the Sunshine Law in its selection process.

Visit for the rest.

Florida: Palm Coast stands by its attorney on Sunshine Law issue

PALM COAST (Nov 20, 2012) — The First Amendment Foundation emailed a letter to city officials Tuesday reiterating that the City Council violated the Sunshine Law in its appointment of David Ferguson to the council. Ferguson was sworn in during Tuesday's City Council meeting to the District 2 seat. Ferguson, 60, was appointed to the seat last week even though an attorney for the First Amendment Foundation warned that the city had violated the Sunshine Law in its selection process.

Visit for the rest.

October 8, 2012 12:50 PM

From I-Newsource:

San Diego mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio keeps a private calendar that shows he had appointments with newspaper owner Doug Manchester in December and in May, despite his office insisting no records of communication exist between the two men.


Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said, “Public officials have gotten smart, and they’ve figured out if they want to have communications by email that will not be discovered under the (public records acts) then they use their private email accounts.”

For more background information, please see:

California First Amendment Coalition is a member of NFOIC. -- eds

September 24, 2012 8:52 AM

From Gilroy Dispatch:

City Council is preparing to change the dynamics of their open government commission – which was created in 2009 to promote transparency from Gilroy staff – as they move to allow members of the public apply for the commission.

Council voted Sept. 17 to approve the modified ordinance, which says that by 2014, the commission will be run entirely by members of the community, rather than by City Council members.

September 20, 2012 2:17 PM

From U-T San Diego:

On July 24, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors reaffirmed its commitment to open meetings, unanimously agreeing to follow the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act even though the state had suspended the law to save money.

Chairman Ron Roberts mocked the state for its dysfunction.

July 31, 2012 11:10 AM

From Mashable:

Palo Alto, Calif., is already well known as a global center of technology innovation, with companies from Google to Facebook having once called it home. However, the city itself hasn't fully embraced technology's potential to disrupt local government – until now.
The city of Palo Alto is announcing Tuesday the launch of a new open data platform that represents a first step to becoming a truly digital city. The platform, powered by Junar, will give Palo Alto’s tech-savvy residents and all other interested developers a wealth of easily consumable data in hopes that they will go off and create new, useful applications that tie the city’s residents closer together and change their view of government from a provider of services to a facilitator of community building.

July 31, 2012 10:47 AM

From Del Mar Times:

Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Dave Roberts worked with his colleagues on the Solana Beach City Council in a special session to unanimously pass a resolution to reaffirm the city’s commitment to the Brown Act.
“I was disappointed when I learned that the state budget would no longer contain funding to implement certain components of the Brown Act,” Roberts said. “Our resolution not only reaffirms our commitment to following the Brown Act, but firmly states that the public has remedies to ensure the actions of our city government are open and transparent.”
Read more about the issue:

March 30, 2012 2:45 PM

From California Watch

Biotech companies with operations in California – the birthplace of the industry and home to one-third of the country’s biotech firms – spent $40 million on federal lobbying between 2009 and 2011, according to an analysis released yesterday by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Center for Responsive Politics.

March 30, 2012 2:32 PM

A few open government and FOIA news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier.

Text messages enter public-records debate

Those supposedly private messages that public officials dash off on their government cellphones to friends and colleagues aren't necessarily private after all.

Courts, lawyers and states are increasingly treating these typed text messages as public documents subject to the same disclosure laws — including the federal Freedom of Information Act — that apply to e-mails and paper records.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

Judge calls for near-complete release of UC pepper-spray report

OAKLAND — A judge Wednesday rejected nearly all attempts by a campus police union to block release of portions of a report on the November pepper-spraying of UC Davis students by university officers.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo disagreed with assertions that large chunks of the report — designed to scrutinize the day's events and craft new policy — should be sealed because they contain the same kind of information as in officer personnel files compiled for disciplinary purposes. He also rejected union arguments that officers named in the report have a constitutional right to privacy.

Visit LA Times for the rest.

Justice accused of hindering multi-agency FOIA website

Open government watchdog groups are calling upon the White House to help resolve an apparent power struggle between the Justice Department and three other federal agencies over the creation of new websites for consolidating Freedom of Information Act requests and information.

The tussle is over, recently created by Justice, and a new FOIA Web portal being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency with assistance from the Commerce Department and the National Archives & Records Administration.

Visit Federal Computer Week for the rest.

FDA Gets High Marks for FOIA Request Transparency

A report by the House Oversight Committee has found many federal agencies to be deficient when it comes to tracking basic information regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Visit Regulatory Focus for the rest.

Bush and Cheney Are for Snooping In Everyone’s Library Records But Theirs

Libraries, you will recall, are playgrounds for terrorists—which is why George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made sure the that PATRIOT Act empowered the FBI to rummage through library records with impunity and without a warrant, confidentiality be damned. But now that there's a lawsuit seeking records from their presidential libraries, Bush and Cheney are hiding behind the Librarian's Code.

Visit Gawker for the rest.

CIA Withholds Documents Using Legal Exemption It Does Not Have Authority to Apply

For the past eight years, the CIA has used an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that "protects intelligence sources and methods" to justify the withholding of certain records from requesters.

But a federal lawsuit filed against the CIA charges that the agency does not have the authority to deny records under what is known as a (b)(3) exemption unless the Director of the CIA consulted with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and received specific authorization in each instance it had denied records under that rule, which it apparently has not done.

Visit TruthOut for the rest.

Records used in other states to uncover cheating on tests not open in Texas

While other states are finding evidence of school test score manipulation, the Texas Education Agency has managed to quash open records requests that would allow the public to investigate such a thing in this state.

Visit Texas Watchdog for the rest.

R text messages a loophole in Florida records law?

Florida public records laws are often called among the toughest in the nation. But that was b4 txt msging. The state updated its public records rules last year to advise that text messages, Facebook comments, Tweets and other communications on "emerging communications technologies'' might be public records, depending on their content.

Visit Orlando Sentinel for the rest.

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