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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November 22, 2013 1:17 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.

Minnesota high court: Business not subject to open-records laws

image of Access keyThe Minnesota Supreme Court ruling reversed a Court of Appeals decision in case involving an Ely newspaper. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a private business that contracted with a northern school district to renovate buildings isn’t subject to state open-records laws. The ruling means that Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls doesn’t have to reveal to Timberjay Newspapers of Tower, Minn., details of its subcontract with a Minnesota architectural firm to build schools in St. Louis County. The high court reversed the Appeals Court’s October ruling, which had been viewed as a victory for public access to government contracts.

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Vanderbilt rape records request denied again, Tennessee

Nashville officials on Thursday again denied a request for records related to the investigation of a June 23 incident in which four football players at Vanderbilt University are accused of raping an unconscious female student. The Tennessean and its attorney are weighing their response.

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N.M. Judge says state can keep audit secret

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The state can keep secret an audit that prompted it to freeze payments to providers of mental health and substance abuse treatment, a state district judge ruled Thursday. Judge Douglas Driggers rejected a request by the Las Cruces Sun-News and New Mexico In Depth to order the Human Services Department to release the audit under state open records laws. But he did leave open the possibility of a new hearing in six months to see if more of the 300-page document can be released later.

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Clinton records trial delayed to Jan. 30, IA

CLINTON — A trial on the enforcement actions related to the city of Clinton not releasing records of closed sessions has been continued. In a summary judgment issued Tuesday, the city was found to have violated the state open records law in not releasing the records of a series of six closed meetings held regarding the lawsuit filed over the ambulance service billing practices. The Wednesday trial was to present arguments on the penalties and enforcement.

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Conservative thinktank wants emails of outspoken UNC law professor

The Civitas Institute, a Raleigh-based conservative group, has filed a public records request for emails and correspondence of Gene Nichol, a tenured University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor who has been critical of McCrory Administration policies. The public records request for Nichol’s emails was reported Thursday afternoon by Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies, a group which has closely tracked spending by Art Pope, a wealthy Republican donor serving as McCrory’s budget director. Civitas is funded almost entirely by a family foundation run by Pope.

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Another View: FOIA fixes would help, Michigan

A committee in the Michigan House has sent a bill making essential improvements to the state's Freedom of Information Act to the full chamber for consideration, likely later this year. That is good news for media organizations that fight battles to get public information on a regular basis. But it's even better news for citizens, who are entitled to see records that let them evaluate the quality of their government.

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PA local agencies may have violated law

Two local government entities may have violated the state's Open Meetings Law, also known as the Sunshine Act, related to how officials handled executive sessions in October. The Express documented how local government handled executive sessions during October. During that time period, Keystone Central School Board and Wayne Township's Board of Supervisors went into executive sessions during public meetings and the boards may have violated the Sunshine Act after potentially failing to offer proper explanation for the executive sessions, according to case law and a legal expert's interpretation of the law.

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Sterling cancels mediation hearing in FL public records case

A hearing set for this morning in a lawsuit involving a public records request for a town official’s emails was cancelled Wednesday afternoon.
Sterling Palm Beach had asked for mediation in hopes of resolving key issues prior to a Dec. 13 hearing involving documents related to lease negotiations for the Royal Poinciana Playhouse. However, Sterling cancelled the hearing, which was a request to set mediation. Calls to John Little, Sterling’s attorney, were not returned.

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Wyo. Supreme Court hears arguments in records case involving frack chemical trade secrets

CHEYENNE, Wyoming — The state Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over whether a trade secrets exemption in Wyoming's public records law may be invoked to shield from disclosure many of the chemicals the petroleum industry uses in hydraulic fracturing. The landowner group Powder River Basin Resource Council and environmentalists including the Wyoming Outdoor Council argued that individual ingredients in the various chemical products used during hydraulic fracturing can't be considered trade secrets. Therefore, they say, the information on file with the state must be disclosed to the public.

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Colorado couple sues town for records in February police shooting

The ACLU and a Castle Rock couple whose car was hit by a police officer's bullet while he was responding to a burglary in February are suing town officials for records related to the shooting and the officer's conduct. Town and police officials have repeatedly denied Michael and Susan Cardellas' open-records requests for documents detailing the internal investigation into the Feb. 21 shooting, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday. The couple also wants information concerning Officer Terry Watts' conduct about 1 p.m. that day, when he fired his rifle at fleeing burglary suspects in a Ford Explorer.

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University of Central Florida ignores FOIA request

A federal judge has ordered UCF to release documents involved in a same-sex parenting study, but UCF has obtained legal counsel in efforts to block the release. More than 50,000 documents relating to the parenting study, which appeared in Social Science Research — a publication housed at UCF — have been requested, but not submitted.

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Journalism background expected to serve new asst. attorney general in Washington well

OLYMPIA – Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Monday that he has selected Olympia attorney Nancy Krier to serve full time as the office’s Open Government Assistant Attorney General. Prior to pursuing her law degree at the University of Washington, Krier worked several years as a reporter.

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CT lawmaker scrambles after political consulting revelations

Rep. Geoffrey Luxenberg tried to skirt open-government laws by directing a state legislative aide to communicate with him by text message to his personal cellphone or to a personal email account. The Democrat from Manchester also asked legislative staffers to draft “talking points” to help him and his “surrogates” in interviews with reporters. The staffers told him they couldn’t do that because the issue involved his private business, not his actions as a state representative.

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Idaho open government group objects to closed Twin Falls meetings

TWIN FALLS • Idahoans for Openness in Government filed a complaint against the city of Twin Falls Tuesday, claiming city officials have repeatedly violated the state’s open meeting law. The complaint stems from the city’s use of closed subcommittees. The panels are made up of fewer than four City Council members, plus city staff and citizens. The groups make recommendations on who should fill open city positions and on city finances, for example.

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November 13, 2013 10:14 AM

From wsoctv.com: INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. — Proposed changes to the public records policy in Indian Trail are raising questions about government transparency.

Tuesday evening, the Town Council will vote on the proposal, which civil rights experts said could limit citizens' access to information.

[...]

Under the new policy, residents would have to prepay a 75 percent deposit for any records requests that could exceed $100.

Visit wsoctv.com for more.

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October 11, 2013 7:26 AM

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.

Michigan lawmakers approve new limits on public records, remove controversial 'journalist' definition

image of Access keyLANSING, MI -- The Michigan House on Wednesday approved a bill seeking to slow "ambulance chasing" attorneys from using public traffic accident records to find new clients. In doing so, lawmakers removed controversial language that would have defined who is or is not a journalist. The Michigan Press Association and other First Amendment advocates had raised red flags over House Bill 4770, which as introduced would have prevented immediate access to accident reports for most individuals but included exceptions for certain groups, including newspaper, radio or television employees.

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Idaho judge rules against media groups in hospital case

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge presiding over an antitrust lawsuit between two major Idaho health care providers has declared that trial testimony and documents can remain hidden from public view, providing attorneys make a compelling case for secrecy. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled Tuesday after a coalition of Idaho news organizations challenged a broad protective order approved by the judge for documents and testimony leading up to the trial.

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Lawsuit over mug-shot web sites captures a public records dilemma, Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Debra Lashaway is realizing that the Internet never forgets. Years after she was exonerated of a theft charge, she remains online through a lasting image of her arrest: a mug shot.

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Times-News co-sponsors Idaho open government workshop

Public documents are the backbone to government transparency, but sometimes wading through what is or isn’t open can be confusing. To help the public navigate Idaho’s public records law, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Idahoans for Openness in Government are holding a workshop for those who want to learn more about access to public records and meetings.

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Texas appeals court hears Bexar open records case

AUSTIN — An appellate court heard clashing arguments Wednesday over Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson's long-running refusal to disclose official communications in his private email accounts. The Precinct 4 commissioner, who in 2012 was ordered by a trial court in Austin to release transportation policy-related emails sought by the San Antonio Express-News, insisted anew that the communications were not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. State and newspaper lawyers countered that the messages must be shared because they were official business.

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Editorial: N.M. Governor must be more open about travel

It's a problem that dates back to at least the Richardson administration, and remains unresolved to this day: the governor being less than transparent with their daily schedule and travel plans. The Associated Press reported last week that in response to its request for travel records, information provided by the Susana Martinez administration for political trips not related to state business was incomplete and inconsistent with previous statements.

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Sarasota development review panel to meet in sunshine

SARASOTA - A committee charged with helping to shape Sarasota developments will no longer hold private meetings before signing off on projects in public, City Attorney Bob Fournier said this week. Fournier has advised members of the Development Review Committee to end that practice, he said, and make all meetings public, after open government advocates complained last month that the DRC appeared to be violating Florida's Sunshine Law.

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Wis. Senate sends AG ‘sunshine’ legislation to governor

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) — The Wisconsin Senate has passed legislation aimed at bringing transparency to the state’s hiring of private sector attorneys on a contingency fee basis. On Tuesday, senators concurred 23-10 and sent the legislation, the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act, or Assembly Bill 27, to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

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Vermont announces 'open data' pilot project

As Vermont’s state government takes its first baby step into the giant world of open data, the state’s civic hackers are lining up to help. Harry Bell of Vermont’s Department of Information and Innovation announced Tuesday that the state would be stepping out of its website shell and into the “open data” movement — a growing international trend toward making government data more available to the public.

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Hendersonville (Tennessee) public records ordinance clears hurdle

Citizens may soon be able to make their own copies of public records at Hendersonville City Hall, but would still have to pay a labor charge for retrieving and redacting those records if the process takes more than an hour. Hendersonville leaders passed an ordinance late Tuesday outlining how public records will be handled. The measure passed 9 to 3, but will require another vote before it takes effect.

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Asheville, Buncombe (NC) crime databases offer access to public records

Two relatively new online databases, from the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, offer extensive access to crime reports. Both use a program called Police to Citizen (or P2C) that allows users to look up information on crimes in their neighborhoods and search for alleged and convicted offenders by name. Buncombe’s P2C has been online for a little more than a year and was recently enhanced to include more thorough information, according to Kim Pruett, Buncombe County’s director of information technology. Asheville’s P2C, implemented in collaboration between Asheville and Buncombe IT staff, was launched in August.

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Who’s got that public record you want? Louisiana government begins to comply with new law

State Rep. Chris Broadwater typed away on a Dell laptop last week at his legislative office in downtown Hammond. Broadwater was checking to see which government agencies had complied with a measure, House Concurrent Resolution 129, that the state Legislature approved unanimously in June. Sponsored by Broadwater, it requires government agencies to make it easy for citizens to find out online how they can file public records requests, by identifying who on the website is the custodian of those records.

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Spokane (Washington) Public Schools to pay $130,000 in public records dispute

Spokane Public Schools will pay a Spokane woman with a history of needling officials $130,000 after failing to comply with a 2009 public records request. Laurie Rogers is a private tutor, frequent critic and describes herself as an advocate for transparent government. She had filed a request for all “promotional materials on the 2006 and 2009 bonds and levies.”

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Mich. bills to limit access to juvenile records, accident reports move forward

LANSING — Two bills that would make it more difficult or impossible for the public to access the criminal records of juveniles and accident records from police passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature on Wednesday. The first bill, passed unanimously in the Senate, would shut out the public from access to the criminal records of juveniles available on a Michigan State Police-run online data base. The records could be released to other law enforcement agencies and employers who do criminal background checks on potential employees.

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Vermont gun group responds to Burlington rejection with second FOIA

Undeterred by the City of Burlington’s refusal to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs has filed a second FOIA request, the group reported yesterday on its website. The original request was for documents and correspondence related to the city’s undermining of state preemption laws for firearms. That effort was reported in this column on September 21, and produced a response from the city three days later.

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Former Polk County deputy suing sheriff over public records

LAKELAND | A former Polk County sheriff's deputy who was fired earlier this year is suing Polk Sheriff Grady Judd for not providing public records, according to court filings. Shawnee McCawley requested copies of emails and text messages from eight Sheriff's Office employees in an Aug. 9 letter sent by certified mail, according to the lawsuit.

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July 23, 2013 1:38 PM

From CharlotteObserver.com:  A judge has dismissed a lawsuit contending that one of the nation’s largest public hospital chains, Carolinas HealthCare System, violated the state public records law.

In an order signed Monday, Superior Court Judge Robert Sumner agreed that the Charlotte-based hospital system has a right to keep confidential a legal settlement that it obtained against the former Wachovia Bank.

Gary Jackson, the Charlotte lawyer who filed the public records lawsuit, says he will appeal that ruling to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

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July 17, 2013 11:51 AM

From CharlotteObserver.com:  A Charlotte attorney contends in a lawsuit that one of the nation’s largest public hospital chains, Carolinas HealthCare System, has violated the state public records law by keeping secret the terms of a legal settlement.

Carolinas HealthCare, the multibillion-dollar system that runs Carolinas Medical Center and more than 30 other hospitals, won a confidential settlement in a court complaint that it filed against the former Wachovia Bank.

The new suit by attorney Gary Jackson maintains that Carolinas HealthCare has no legal right to keep the settlement confidential – an argument that the hospital system disputes.

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June 14, 2013 12:30 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.

 

Private prison firm CCA defends record on transparency in Vt.

MONTPELIER, Vermont — The private company that runs three out-of-state prisons where Vermont inmates are housed is defending its record on transparency. Corrections Corporation of America is responding to a lawsuit filed in Vermont over the issue by saying it complies fully with all applicable state open-records laws.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

UO public records office increases volume, efficiency

A year-end report from University of Oregon's Office of Public Records indicates a larger volume than ever of requests for information about various UO operations but a steadily decreasing amount of time required to fulfill the requests. The UO received 292 public records requests through the first 11 months (through May) of the current fiscal year – four more than in the entire 2012 fiscal year and 92 more than in the 2011 fiscal year. Over that same three-year period, the average amount of time it has taken to fulfill requests has decreased by about five days.

Visit University of Oregon for the rest.

Colorado city wants to ban people taking pictures of public records

Durango, Colo., officials are trying to close what they see as a public-records loophole that is costing them money. The Durango Herald reports that the city is proposing an ordinance that would ban people from photographing public records they request. It seems people are using their cellphones and tablet computers to get around photocopying fees by taking pictures of the documents.

Visit The Salt Lake Tribune for the rest.

Governor Cuomo releases provisional open data guidelines to increase transparency among state agencies

Albany, NY - June 13, 2013 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today released provisional open data guidelines for state agencies and public authorities to participate in Open.ny.gov, marking another milestone for the State’s data transparency website. With this action, New York is the first state in the nation to publish its provisional open data guidelines and seek public comment on GitHub, an open source platform that allows for open collaboration and sharing. Public comment is open until September 1, 2013.

Visit LongIsland.com for the rest.

City of El Paso launches webpage to file open records requests electronically

EL PASO, Texas - The City of El Paso has launched a webpage for open records requests. The Cithy's Communications and Public Affairs Office is responsible for all Open Records Requests. All requests must be made in writing. To submit an Open Records Request through the electronic system, please click on the “Submit Open Records Request” tab on the link at bottom of this article.

Visit KVIA for the rest.

Law signed by governor regarding private university police records

A bill allowing public access to information maintained by campus police affiliated with private and non-profit institutions of higher education in North Carolina became law this week. House Bill 142 was ratified on June 5 and signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Pat McCrory. The new law requires campus police departments at private universities to comply with more public records requests, making arrest records and other investigative records public information. It requires the same kind of access also mandated for municipal, county and state law enforcement.

Visit Times-News for the rest.

California legislature kills $10 fee for search of public court records

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A trailer bill that would have severely limited press and public access to court documents has died in the California Legislature, after widespread editorial condemnation from the state's newspapers. The defeated proposal was put forward by the Administrative Office of the Courts and would have resulted in a charge of $10 per file to look at court records.

Visit Courthouse News Service for the rest.

June 10, 2013 1:51 PM

From The Fayetteville Observer:  The General Assembly has approved a bill that would open police records on all private school campuses to the public.

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The legislation requires campus police at private colleges and universities to publicly disclose records, including narrative descriptions surrounding arrests and 911 calls.

 

April 19, 2013 1:07 PM

Access Freedom of InformationA 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.

 

One resident, hundreds of FOI requests keep New Canaan (Conn.) officials busy

Voluminous. That’s one way to characterize the number of Freedom of Information requests that public officials and employees have received from a resident who consistently claims there is corruption within New Canaan’s government. As of Dec. 19, 2012, Michael Nowacki of Lost District Drive filed 158 FOI requests with the town. This year, according to Tom Stadler, the town’s administrative officer, Nowacki has filed around 30.

Visit NCAdvertiser.com for the rest.

Indiana public records board rejects IUS student’s open meetings complaint

INDIANA — The state’s public records board has upheld Indiana University Southeast’s decision to deny a student journalist access to a meeting in which student government members were divvying up student fees. The state’s Office of the Public Access upheld IUS attorney Kiply Drew’s decision to deny student journalist Jeremy Eiler entry to a meeting of the Student Life Committee on the grounds that “it does not fit the definition of a governing body.” The group distributes student fees totaling more than $500,000.

Visit Student Press Law Center for the rest.

Burlington (NC) advised to oppose public records measure

Burlington’s interim city attorney has advised the city council against supporting a bill in the state Senate that would criminalize violations of public meeting and public record laws. At the end of a meeting this week, Mayor Ronnie Wall said he’d been researching Senate Bill 125, which was initially filed Feb. 21, and has since been referred to the Committee on Judiciary I.

Visit Times-News for the rest.

Editorial: Bill dampens accountability

We are concerned that a bill now being considered in the Louisiana Legislature would hamper public accountability for law enforcement officers if the bill becomes a law. House Bill 244, sponsored by State Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, would make law enforcement agencies, as well as officials in charge of police records within those agencies within those agencies, subject to civil damages if they release an officer’s personnel or disciplinary files without the officer’s consent.

Visit theind.com for the rest.

City fights to keep lid on officials' texts & emails

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - The San Jose City Council voted unanimously to appeal a finding that opens the emails and text messages of officials to California's public records law. Activist Ted Smith sued San Jose, its council members and mayor Chuck Reed - who ran as a champion for open government - in 2009 after the city refused Smith's request for emails, texts and voice messages sent or received by officials regarding a downtown redevelopment project. The city had claimed it lacked authority to access records from personal devices or private accounts.

Visit Courthouse News Service for the rest.

FAU quotes student newspaper $17,000 price for records, student says

Student journalist Dylan Bouscher got a bit of sticker shock when he requested public records from Florida Atlantic University. To get three years worth of police reports, Bouscher, who works for the University Press newspaper, was quoted an astronomical $17,000.

Visit Sun-Sentinel for the rest.

CA Legislature kills bill to shield identities of armed teachers

A bill pushed by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly to train and shield armed "school marshals" failed to make it out of the Assembly Education Committee today after a 5-1 vote. Assembly Bill 202 would exempt from public disclosure information on school employees authorized by a superintendent to carry a concealed weapon on campus. Under current law, the California Public Records Act requires disclosure of concealed weapon permit holders.

Visit The Sacramento Bee for the rest.

Councilman makes FOIA request to mayor and council, Arkansas

Blytheville City Councilman R.L. Jones made a public Freedom of Information Act request for 14 items during Tuesday night's Council meeting in the Blytheville District Courtroom. He asked for the information by 4 p.m. Friday. Jones said he requested some of the information in February, but didn't get a response from Mayor James Sanders. Sanders said he told Jones he hadn't seen the letter that the councilman claims he submitted to the mayor's office.

Visit Blytheville Courier News for the rest.

Social media raises open records worries, Wisconsin

Facebook helped a few Eau Claire City Council candidates connect with voters leading up to the April 2 election. But now that they’re serving as public officials, they’ve gotten into the murky area where open government laws are too slow to keep up with ever-changing social media technology.

Visit Leader-Telegram for the rest.

Florida public records lawsuit filed against UCF

According to UCF’s Knight News, LGBT activist, journalist and blogger John Becker filed a lawsuit against UCF seeking access to public records related to a study by researcher Mark Regenerus titled “New Family Structures.” The study, which was cited in oral arguments before the Supreme Court last month, concluded that “children appear most apt to succeed well as adults—on multiple counts and across a variety of domains—when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.”

Visit Orlando Weekly for the rest.

Fracking chemical disclosure decision appealed to WY Supreme Court

Public interest groups that lost a suit about disclosing fracking chemicals are appealing that decision to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Groups like Earthjustice and the Powder River Basin Resource Council argue that the separate chemicals used in the fracking process should be public information under the Wyoming Public Records Act. A Wyoming District court Judge sided in March with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well as industry when it ruled that not disclosing chemical identities when they are deemed a trade secret is permissible. Powder River Basin Resource Council member Marilyn Ham says that’s not right.

Visit Wyoming Public Media for the rest.

April 5, 2013 12:28 PM

Access Freedom of InformationA 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.

 

Opinion: 514 days later, no use for records

A year and a half is a long time to wait for most things, but especially something that the state of North Carolina requires be given to you quickly. On Thursday, the University finally complied with a public records request I made in the fall of 2011 — a whopping 514 days after submission.

Visit The Daily Tar Heel for the rest.

State sues City of Huntington for FOIA request denial

HUNTINGTON – The State of West Virginia, by way of Charleston attorney Michael T. Clifford, is suing the City of Huntington for refusing to release records requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Clifford represents the Estate of Joshua Jonnie Emerson, who was shot to death by Huntington Police Officer Stephen Fitz on Dec. 22, according to a complaint filed March 28 in Cabell Circuit Court.

Visit The West Virginia Record for the rest.

Death certificates should stay public

On Friday, the General Assembly's public health committee will vote on a bill that would wrongly restrict public access to death certificates of children under 18. The bill represents an understandable but fraught and unwise reaction by some local officials to the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Dec. 14.

Visit Hartford Courant for the rest.

Maine official: I was harassed for not shredding public documents

AUGUSTA — ‪A division director at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has filed a discrimination claim with the Maine Human Rights Commission, alleging that senior managers assaulted and harassed her after she refused an order to shred public records. Sharon Leahy-Lind of Portland, director of the CDC's Division of Local Public Health, alleges in the complaint that her supervisor, CDC Deputy Director Christine Zukas, told her last spring to shred documents related to the competitive awards of funding to health outreach nonprofits under the Healthy Maine Partnership. She did not comply, believing it would be illegal.

Visit Kennebec Journal for the rest.

Oakland Code for America: Building a better public requests system (Community Voices)

Humans are profoundly resourceful and, at a basic level, selfish. We all have needs that must get filled. ... One of the spaces that my teammates and I researched in February, and are now working on a solution for, is the way the city of Oakland handles public records requests. There are many channels in which record requests are currently being made and many channels through which they get fulfilled.

Visit Oakland Local for the rest.

Indiana Senate committee amends bill setting fees for public records

An Indiana Senate committee today passed an amendment to a bill that would allow state and local government agencies to charge members of the public up to $20 an hour to search for public records. The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee voted 9-1 to amend House Bill 1175 with language that would let people use cellphones or other hand-held devices to take pictures of their own documents such as property records while inside county recorders’ offices.

Visit Indianapolis Star for the rest.

City releases consultant's report about police outsourcing

Last year City Council hired Management Consultants to review proposals for potential police outsourcing to save money in Pacifica's budget, but the consultant's report was not made public. The two proposals the city received, one from South San Francisco and one from the San Mateo County Sheriff, were made public, but an overview of the proposals made by the consultant was never released. The city attorney, Michelle Kenyon, maintained the report was private under attorney-client privilege because it pertained to employee negotiations. The Pacifica Tribune filed a request to see the report under the Freedom of Information Act. The request was denied by Michael Guina of Kenyon's law firm, Burke, Williams and Sorenstein in this letter dated Sept. 28, 2012.

Visit Mercury News for the rest.

Fallin clashes again with media over records requests

Being governor of Oklahoma has its privileges, which is the case in every other state as well. But apparently the Oklahoma governor has a few more privileges than most governors have. At least, that seems to be Gov. Mary Fallin's view. For example, when reporters demand public records under the state Open Records Act, Fallin can release the ones she feels comfortable releasing, and then claim she has "executive privilege" or "deliberative process privilege" or some other such privilege to keep other records from public view.

Visit Tulsa World for the rest.

Advocate sues LSU over president search records

The Advocate and LSU’s student newspaper filed public records lawsuits against the LSU Board of Supervisors on Monday, seeking documents related to LSU’s search for a new president of the state’s flagship university. That search, conducted largely in secret, yielded F. King Alexander — president of Cal State University in Long Beach, Calif. — as the sole finalist for LSU’s top post.

Visit The Advocate for the rest.

TEXAS VIEW: Attack of Open Meetings Act ends

The U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t have time for speciousness and frivolity. We wish we could say the same for public officials from 15 Texas cities, including Rockport. They spent nearly nine years trying to undermine the Texas Open Meetings Act until the court put an abrupt stop to it last Monday by declining to review their case. The plaintiffs argued that this cherished bulwark of the principle of open government violated another cherished right — theirs to free speech. How? Well, apparently the notion that two Alpine city councilwomen shouldn’t have emailed each other and two other council members privately to discuss official city business, and that they could have faced criminal penalties for having done so, was a tyrannical threat to the First Amendment.

Visit Odessa American for the rest.

March 18, 2013 12:10 PM

From Port City Daily:

One week after Port City Daily sent public records requests to five municipal law enforcement agencies, only one agency fully complied with the public records request.

On Friday, March 8, Port City Daily sent a public records request to Wilmington, Leland, Wrightsville Beach, Surf City and Carolina Beach police departments.

The Town of Carolina Beach was the only agency to fully comply with the request.



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 11, 2013 12:01 PM

Editorial from StarNewsOnline.com:

In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be a need for “Sunshine Week,” which celebrates the right of the people to watch their government in action. That includes free access to meetings and documents that discuss the public’s business. An accessible government is a keystone of our democracy.

Unfortunately, too often the folks put in charge of government forget that “we the people” are the government, that every public employee and elected official works for the taxpayers and that every government document belongs to us. Sunshine Week, March 10-16, is spearheaded by journalists and news organizations to reinforce the notion that “Open Government is Good Government.”

[...]

North Carolina has strong, relatively clear Open Meetings and Public Records laws, yet too often news organizations and ordinary citizens are denied basic access. The StarNews alone has reported on many cases in which information was withheld or meetings closed, despite laws that require transparency. Part of the reason is that the penalty for breaking the law is meaningless. Ignorance of the law is another factor.



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