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 http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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March 28, 2014 9:40 AM

The Illinois Policy Institute has released the latest round of Local Transparency Project audit results, this time measuring the transparency levels of some of Illinois’ largest municipalities.

IPI just completed an audit of the websites of the 26th through 50th largest municipalities in the state. Online transparency levels varied wildly from community to community. Scores ranged from Lombard’s perfect 100 percent to Romeoville’s dismal 29.7 percent.

Quincy also received an "F" with a score of only 51.1 percent. Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore says as he approaches a year in office, his administration is working to improve in this area. Continue>>>

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March 13, 2014 12:11 AM

Legislators in California and Illinois are working on transparency measures that would bring more of the public’s business out in the open. Yesterday, both houses of the Illinois statehouse passed a measure that will require state agencies to ensure that more information gets on to the state transparency portal faster. In California, a package of bills, known as the California Accountability in Public Service, or CAPS Act were proposed.

The Illinois bill currently on the Governor’s desk will not only compel state agencies to release updated information more quickly, it also establishes a position in the governor’s office to go out and collect data from agencies.

The bill is the result of existing open data practices at state agencies which leave a little to be desired. The state has a Transparency and Accountability Portal, but information on there isn’t updated all that frequently even though both parties support greater government transparency. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law shortly. Continue>>>
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March 12, 2014 4:55 AM

The Chicago Police Department can no longer keep misconduct records secret, a state appeals court has ruled.

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act doesn’t exempt “CR files,” which consist of misconduct complaints against officers and documents created during the investigations, the court found Monday.

The appeals court also found that “RL” files are open to the public. Those files identify police officers who have accumulated the most misconduct complaints. At issue were two RL files that named officers with the most complaints between 2001-2006 and 2002-2008.

University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman hailed the ruling, saying: “I really do think this is a watershed moment in Illinois in terms of police transparency and accountability.” Continue>>>
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March 9, 2014 4:55 AM

A bill to make updates to the state government transparency website happen faster is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn.

House Bill 1040, sponsored by Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, moves responsibility for posting data to the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal to the governor’s office itself, and mandates all state departments to develop a plan to more quickly get data posted and updated. The portal, created five years ago through another Tryon bill, includes information such as state employees’ pay, state agency expenses and contracts, and local governments’ annual financial reports.

Tryon said he envisioned the website having almost instantaneous updates, but said it has fallen far short – in some cases, up to five months behind. His bill moves responsibility for the portal out of the Department of Central Management Services, which is in charge of state government’s IT needs. Continue>>>
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March 2, 2014 6:06 AM

The Tribune used state records and trial transcripts to show how an undercover FBI agent, using the alias Carlos Vargas, formed a political committee while posing as a strip club manager in the Chicago suburb of Harvey.

The records list Vargas as providing about $140,000 to the committee, named The Harvey Good Government Group 2007. Fliers tied to the committee promoted the re-election of the suburb's controversial mayor.Continue>>>

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chicago, FBI, FOIA, illinois
February 26, 2014 2:22 AM

Recent requests to see the FOIA officer training and certifications at the 34 state agencies listed on the Attorney general’s website: 60% were not current and violating mandatory state law.

Health can family Services have two officers and both were out-of-compliance with the law for four years. State FOIA officers decide what information can be released or withheld under open records law. But, the officers themselves were violating the Act. They were not trained or certified and thus not qualified. Continue>>>
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February 2, 2014 1:12 AM

The city of Belleville (IL) will use a new procedure and web system to handle requests for public records following tension between the mayor and city clerk.

Since the municipal election in April, Mayor Mark Eckert and City Clerk Dallas Cook have been at odds over whose job it is to gather and release public information.

The new rules are meant to clear up any misunderstandings over who is responsible for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests in a timely manner. Continue>>>
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March 22, 2012 4:33 PM

From BND.com:

Central School District spent a little over $400 in a failed attempt to refuse a Freedom of Information Act request asking to review the district’s legal invoices.

The district paid its attorney Garrett Hoerner $402.50 for legal services related to the rejection of the FOIA request and later defense of the rejection during an investigation from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

March 21, 2012 3:26 PM

From ForestLeaves:

Hillside Police Department must turn over a 2002 police report describing the arrest of Emanuel “Chris” Welch for domestic battery, the Illinois attorney general ordered Friday.

Forest Leaves has been seeking the report since January, but Hillside police refused a Freedom of Information Act request, saying there was no arrest and that the matter was private.

March 21, 2012 2:59 PM

From ProPublica:

Every local broadcast station has a repository of documents about political advertising that you have a legal right to see but can do so only by going to the station and asking to see “the public file.”

These paper files contain detailed data on all political ads that run on the channel, such as when they aired, who bought the time and how much they paid. It’s a transparency gold mine, allowing the public to see how campaigns and outside groups are influencing elections.

But TV executives have been fighting a Federal Communications Commission proposal to make the data accessible online. Since TV stations won’t put it online themselves, we decided to do it ourselves — and we want your help.

March 6, 2012 1:58 PM

From Sunshine Review:

A very important component of open government involves collaboration between governments and citizens. The purpose of transparency is so that citizens can play their role in holding governments accountable. Also, because governments need to answer to citizens because they work to serve our interests, it is proper that they involve us in key decisions.

That is why it is so important for public officials to reach out to citizens. On FOIAchat, Brian McDaniel from Will County, Illinois, is a shining example. Mr. McDaniel is the chief investment officer for Will County, one of the most populous counties in Illinois. Mr. McDaniel joins FOIAchat regularly, an online chat moderated by Sunshine Review that brings together professional journalists and citizens interested in governemnt transparency, and answers questions giving his professional perspective.

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