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 21, 2012 10:03 AM

Apparently, there's still some debate regarding the causal chain linking turkey consumption and the seemingly immediate need for a nap; however, there's no debating the fact that Freedom of Information is always important, so just in case we're still asleep the Friday following Thanksgiving, we thought we'd publish this week's State FOIA Friday a bit early.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Lower Merion Township (Penn.) honored for open government

In a brief ceremony at a meeting of the board of commissioners Monday, a regional organization honored Lower Merion Township for its efforts to provide open, readily-available information for citizens. ... The Open Book Award was created to recognize municipalities for their efforts to provide residents and local businesses “detailed, up-to-date information about public meetings, proposed ordinances, and existing rules and regulations,” putting “the public’s right-to-know at the forefront of their business and activities.”

Visit Main Line Media News for the rest.

Collier County (FL) Commissioner: County has a public records problem

Facing a possible lawsuit from one of their employees is forcing the Collier County Commissioners to re-evaluate their knowledge of public records laws. ... An attorney for Paula Springs, who is Commissioner Jim Coletta's assistant, sent a letter to the commissioners about a violation of her rights last month. According to the letter, Springs' health records were not redacted from her personnel file before Commissioner Georgia Hiller inspected them Oct. 11. ... But the county may have done nothing wrong. Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, said private information can be viewed as part of an investigation.

Visit Naples Daily News for the rest.

Court rules New Jersey must allow review of pension-scandal files

A state appellate judge denied a motion by the Attorney General seeking to stop the Government Records Council, another state agency, from reviewing Treasury files requested by [New Jersey Watchdog]. As a result, Treasury officials must comply with a GRC order to turn over 26 documents for inspection. After review, the council will determine which documents, if any, should be released to New Jersey Watchdog under the Open Public Records Act.

Visit for the rest.

Utah Congressional districting details

The paper trail left behind by those who redrew all of the state’s congressional and legislative districts the last time around has always been a public record. The Republican leaders of the Legislature admitted as much late last week when they finally decided to actually make those records public, rather than face an embarrassing and expensive court battle with the Democrats and the state’s news organizations. Thus the leadership’s argument that the records should only see the light of day if the Democratic Party would pay all the costs associated with the search is revealed as totally bogus. Only in a state where one party so dominates the landscape would any elected official utter, and expect to get away with, such a transparent stonewall.

Opinion from Salt Lake Tribune.

Santa Fe, alarm firm settle dispute over fines and public records

The city of Santa Fe and the owner of a local burglar alarm company agreed earlier this month to settle a lawsuit the company filed in District Court this summer over fines and access to public records. ... The city adopted rules in 2009 that require alarm companies to register each home or business alarm with the city and establish fines for repeat instances of false alarms. Practical enforcement began in the spring of 2011. Then, in 2012, officials made changes to strengthen the ordinance. The idea, policymakers said, was to encourage proper maintenance of the alarms and to ensure owners were accountable when alarms prompted unnecessary police responses.

Visit Santa Fe New Mexican for the rest.

Litigant held entitled to L.A. County lawyers’ billing records in pending suit

The “pending litigation” exemption from the California Public Records Act’s disclosure requirements does not apply to a request by, or on behalf of a litigant, to see the billing records of a public entity’s counsel, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday. Div. Eight denied a writ petition by Los Angeles County, which challenged Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant’s order that it disclose billing records in the case of Venegas v. County of Los Angeles. ... Chalfant ruled that the billing records were not attorney-client communications, that portions of them were work product, and that the pending-litigation exception did not apply because the billing records were not prepared for use in the litigation.

Visit Metropolitan News-Enterprise for the rest.


November 16, 2012 2:26 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:

ACLU lawsuit claims they were denied access to public records

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey claims in a lawsuit that the city of Passaic and its custodian of records have illegally denied it access to public records concerning police devices that read motor vehicle license plates. ...[T]he ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed federal Freedom of Information Act requests with the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation to learn how the federal government funds and uses the license plate-reading technology.

Visit for the rest.

Age of Access: Asheville's budding open-data push

Although local governments have a huge amount of useful information that’s theoretically “public,” actually getting ahold of it can prove challenging, time-consuming and expensive. The idea is to bypass formal data requests (and the resulting demands on staff time to compile them) by enabling anyone with a computer or a smartphone to find out instantly what’s available — and access it, for free, anytime.

Open Data Day coincided with the city’s releasing a provisional version of an online open-data catalog. Meanwhile, Code for America, a national nonprofit that’s been described as a Peace Corps for geeks, has established a volunteer “brigade” in Asheville to help advance the process, with further assistance possible down the road.

Visit Mountain Xpress for the rest.

Chairman of Del. water authority in public records dispute promises "information release" soon

CAMDEN, Del. — The chairman of a Delaware water and sewer authority says he expects an "information release" soon in a public records dispute. Mark Dyer, chairman of the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority, said Thursday that information would come probably by the end of the month. He didn't specify what records would be provided. He also didn't say whether the authority would fully comply with a judge's order to follow Delaware's Freedom of Information Act and disclose information about employee salaries.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Utah Transit Authority ordered to disclose crime data

The State Records Committee voted 3-2 on Thursday to stop what its chairwoman said is an attempt by the Utah Transit Authority to use high fees to block access to public data. It ordered UTA police to give free access to public data in its crime database to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Visit Salt Lake Tribune for the rest.

West Virginia chapter ACLU files a FOIA request with the city of Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city of Parkersburg seeking records about citations to individuals or organizations for soliciting funds without a permit. The request stems from citations issued to panhandlers standing at intersections with handmade signs asking for help from passing motorists.

Visit Parkersburg News and Sentinel for the rest.

2012 Digital Cities Survey winners announced

n this year's Digital Cities Survey, which highlights local governments demonstrating IT best practices to better serve its constituents, four cities took top honors: Louisville, Ky.; Salt Lake City; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Marana, Ariz. The Digital Cities Survey, now in its 12th year, is conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG), a division of Government Technology's parent company, eRepublic Inc. The survey was underwritten by AT&T, McAfee, ShoreTel and Sprint.

Visit Government Technology for the rest.

State rules in Wellesley (Mass.) schools' favor in public records request

Wellesley — The Massachusetts Supervisor of Public Records has sided with the Wellesley Public Schools in a dispute over the costs of a records request made by the Wellesley Townsman.

Visit The Wellesley Townsman for the rest.

Oklahoma lawmakers hear from open-government advocates

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma appears to be one of only three states in which the Legislature has exempted itself from open records laws, a Senate panel was told Tuesday. The other two states are Massachusetts and Oregon, said Joey Senat, associate professor at the Oklahoma State University School of Media and Strategic Communications.

Visit Tulsa World for the rest.

UNC audit uncovers $123,500 missing from performing arts series office

CHAPEL HILL -- The box office and business operation of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Performing Arts series could not account for $123,500 in revenue that disappeared between 2007 and 2011, according to an internal university audit. The yearlong audit revealed that during a four-year period, $121,000 in cash revenue and another $2,500 in checks were missing from the business operation that oversees the box office for performances at UNC-CH’s Memorial Hall and other arts events. The audit was released to The News & Observer following a public records request.

Visit Winston-Salem Journal for the rest.

Want a copy of your town's annual budget in New York? It's not as easy as it seems

Most of Broome County’s 16 towns this year failed to comply with a new state law that requires all municipalities to post their budget proposals online — if they have a website — before holding public hearings on them. And despite longstanding requirements under state law, two would not release paper copies of the budgets until after public hearings on them.

Visit for the rest.

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