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

November 15, 2013 12:13 PM

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.

R.I. activist files open-records complaint in search for information on payments made to House Speaker Fox

image of Access keyPROVIDENCE — The citizen-activist who filed an ethics complaint against House Speaker Gordon D. Fox in connection with his role as a closing attorney for the troubled Providence Economic Development Partnership loan program has now filed a related open-records complaint with the attorney general’s office. Judith Reilly lodged the open-records complaint against the PEDP after the city agency advised her it had no records of how much Fox was paid for his services as PEDP’s closing attorney from 2005 through early 2010. The complaint is pending.


Ombudsman warns ruling could lead to Iowa open meeting violations

A ruling Thursday by a state board opens the door for Iowa governments to elude a law requiring that the public be given at least 24-hour notice before meetings are held, Ombudsman Ruth Cooperrider warned. That warning came in a meeting just before the Iowa Public Information Board, an enforcement body of the state’s public meeting and open record laws, voted unanimously in favor of a ruling written by the board’s director, Keith Luchtel.


N.J. court upholds OPRA request by Northern Valley Regional parents

Hackensack — Northern Valley Regional High School parents, who said that the school board did not comply with the Open Public Records Act to provide access to records regarding a random drug testing policy, received a small victory when a Bergen County judge ruled that the school district must turn over fifty-seven documents for his review. Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter Doyne rejected the district’s argument that the request made by a group of parents for the documents was improper at a hearing on Nov. 7, and ruled that the district must send 57 withheld documents regarding random drug testing to the court for further review.


Editorial: Public has a right to yawn

To take a famous Shakespeare quote and turn it on its ear: “A thorn by any other name would be as sharp.” In New Hampshire, it’s called the Right-to-Know Law. They call it the Public Records Law in Vermont, the Public Records Act in Massachusetts and it’s known as the Sunshine Law in Florida. At the federal level, it’s known as the Freedom of Information Act.


Editorial: Bringing Mass. into the digital age

Easy access to public records is necessary for government accountability. But Massachusetts’ public record law is out of date. State agencies routinely charge 20 cents a page for documents that can be delivered in an electronic format, and requests for documents often go months without reply. Fortunately, an amendment filed by Representative Peter Kocot of Northampton would correct these deficiencies. Legislators should embrace it.


Limits on fees for public records passed by Michigan House committee

LANSING — Public bodies would be limited in what they could charge for copying public records under the Freedom of Information Act under a bill passed by a House committee Tuesday. The bill would allow public bodies to charge $0.10 per page for documents requested by anyone under the Freedom of Information Act. They also could charge labor costs of up to three times the minimum wage in Michigan of $7.40 per hour.


News groups appeal order to seal court records, Idaho

BOISE, Idaho -- A coalition of news organizations has asked a federal appeals court to order the release of sealed witness testimony and exhibits in an antitrust trial involving the expansion of a health care system. The organizations challenged a protective order issued earlier this year by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill that allowed attorneys for St. Luke's Health System, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, the Federal Trade Commission and others to keep a large amount of testimony and evidence hidden from public view.


Former Washington auditor calls for public access to records

PASCO – “Creating open public records is not a partisan issue,” said Brian Sonntag, former Washington state auditor. “Citizens have the right to expect nothing less.” Sonntag’s comments were made at the Pasco Red Lion yesterday morning, Tuesday, during the Washington Policy Center’s first-ever Solutions Summit.


Tennessee DCS posts documents relating to child deaths

The Department of Children’s Services will now post on its website documents relating to its internal investigations into the deaths and near deaths of children. The agency already has posted more than 3,600 pages of documents relating to the deaths or injuries suffered by 64 children in Tennessee during the last half of 2012. All identifying information has been redacted.


Will open data make Honolulu gov’t more transparent?

The Honolulu City Council today unanimously passed an open data bill that aims to make government more transparent. If Mayor Kirk Caldwell signs the bill it will essentially help to open up reams of government statistics and data in a format that can be manipulated to build apps, create visualizations of complex information and help citizens analyze government services.


Duffey looks to streamline access to public records in Ohio

State Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) has introduced a series of bills designed to make it easier to find and understand data about local and state government. Called the DataOhio Initiative, the program would promote open standards and make Ohio government more accountable to Ohioans, he said.


Groveland Mayor Jim Gearhart quits amid Sunshine-law probe

GROVELAND — Mayor Jim Gearhart, who's been under fire from residents and city employees amid an investigation for possible Sunshine Law violations, stepped down on Wednesday. Gearhart, a member of the City Council since 2007 who was elected mayor last year, blamed "politics" and "brutal attacks" for his resignation in a letter he delivered to Interim City Manager Willie Morgan.


Florida appeals court rules teacher data is public record

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida appeals court says that data used to prepare teacher evaluations is a public record. The 1st District Court of Appeal on Tuesday sided with The Florida Times-Union in a lawsuit the newspaper filed against the Florida Department of Education.


October 16, 2013 11:10 AM

From Huffington Post: Neil Abercrombie’s job as Hawaii governor takes him around the world.

Tourism meetings in Tokyo. A trade show in Los Angeles. A forum in Beijing.

Those kinds of trips sound pricey. But independently reviewing the travel expenses to see if they are worth taxpayers’ money is definitely cost-prohibitive.


One way to keep tabs on the public’s money is to review the governor’s travel records. That’s pretty standard procedure for journalists in most states, especially when an incumbent is up for reelection.

But it’s tough to do in Hawaii. The cost of public records effectively invalidates the state public records law in many instances. It’s just too expensive for the public to pay the price the agencies charge to review records that are legally available under the Uniform Information Practices Act, Hawaii’s decades-old public records law.

Visit Huffington Post for more. In addition, please read Honolulu Civil Beat's special report on the cost of Hawaii's public records here.


October 9, 2013 1:04 PM

From Honolulu Civil Beat: News organizations throughout the state are asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to make it clear that a judge can't close a criminal trial or hear arguments in secret unless the press and public are first given a chance to object.

Hawaii is the only state that has not expressly asserted the First Amendment right to attend criminal judicial proceedings, according to a "friend of the court" brief expected to be filed Monday in a case that seeks the release of transcripts from closed sessions of the recent murder trial of U.S. State Department special agent Christopher Deedy.


On Monday, 11 other news organizations and journalism groups filed an additional brief supporting the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now. But they also want the state's highest court to reverse a 35-year-old ruling that the press did not have a First Amendment right to attend court hearings. The amicus brief was filed by the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest on behalf of Civil Beat, KITV/Hearst Television, KHON, Hawaii Public Radio, Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, Maui Time Weekly, the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Media Council Hawaii and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Visit Honolulu Civil Beat for more.

The Media Council Hawaii is a member of NFOIC. --eds



April 20, 2012 11:02 AM

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

Jessica Dorrell, Bobby Petrino Scandal Shows Power Of FOIA

Bobby Petrino is just the latest Arkansas coach to reveal a bit too much on a state issued cell phone. Petrino was dismissed by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long on before his phone records became available, but the revealing records won't make it any easier for him to land his next job.

Visit International Business Times for the rest.

Judicial Watch Sues DHS for Records Regarding President's Illegal Alien Uncle

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for records related to President Obama's illegal alien uncle, Onyango Obama, who was arrested in August 2011 on drunken driving charges in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Visit Wall Street Journal for the rest.

FOIA Requests Overwhelm City Clerk’s Office

A small number of individuals and entities are responsible for the 10 to 20 weekly Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that are overwhelming Evanston’s city clerk’s office, said City Clerk Rodney Greene at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Visit Evanston Patch for the rest.

Poisons lurk where lead-smelting factories once stood

Ken Shefton is furious about what the government knew eight years ago and never told him — that the neighborhood where his five sons have been playing is contaminated with lead.

Visit USA Today for the rest.

Hawaii Open Government Under Attack

All is not well in the Aloha state. “Sunshine” advocates including Rep. Barbara Marumoto are rising up to oppose a recent attack on Hawaii’s open government. A new bill that was introduced earlier this year is set to intentionally delay responses to public records requests. SB2858 “Creates a process for an agency to obtain judicial review of a decision made by the Office of Information Practices relating to the Sunshine Law or the Uniform Information Practices Act, and clarifies standard of review.”

Visit Government in the Lab for the rest.

CIA Digs In, Refuses to Repeal Damaging Mandatory Declassification Review Regulations.

The CIA has responded to a letter signed by 36 groups requesting that the it withdraw new MDR fee regulations that allow it to charge up to $72 per hour to search for documents –even if none are found.  The response from the CIA’s Information Management Services: Talk to our lawyers, not us.

Visit Unredacted for the rest.

Groups File FOIA Request on 2009 Yemeni Attack

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a Freedom of Information Act request looking into a 2009 U.S. missile strike that killed 41 Yemeni people, the groups announced on Tuesday.

Visit National Journal for the rest.

Watchdog Group Sues County For Records Of Investigation Of Freeholder’s Son

The Union County Watchdog Association (UCWA) has filed a lawsuit in Union County Superior Court seeking access to investigatory records involving a former county employee, Patrick Scanlon, Jr., who is the son of Freeholder Deborah Scanlon.

Visit NJToday for the rest.

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