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 25, 2013 4:00 PM

From HeraldNet.com: OLYMPIA -- Leaders of local governments frustrated by the growing amount of time and tax dollars spent satisfying those with a voracious demand for public records shouldn't count on help from the state anytime soon.

A House member who sought changes in the public records law to fend off what are perceived as exorbitant requests from those with questionable motives now says the state must gather more information on the magnitude of the problem.

Visit HeraldNet.com for more.

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October 24, 2013 12:07 PM

From The Olympian: Former Washington attorney general Rob McKenna says he favors a constitutional amendment as a way to counter last week's state Supreme Court ruling that upheld a governor's claim of executive privilege. Former governors Chris Gregoire and Gary Locke had invoked such a privilege claim in refusing to release certain sensitive public records, and Olympia-based Evergreen Freedom Foundation (now The Freedom Foundation) sued to strike down that claim.

Current Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and McKenna, a Republican, both said last year during their campaign for governor that they would not exercise the privilege if elected. McKenna went further on Tuesday, explaining on his Smarter Government Washington web site why he thinks a constitutional amendment is needed. He called the court ruling, which had just one dissenting justice, Jim Johnson, "deeply damaging to the ideal that state government should be open and transparent."

Visit The Olympian for more.

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October 21, 2013 10:46 AM

From The News Tribune: I wasn’t as shocked as some last week when the state Supreme Court found that governors have a constitutional exemption from disclosing certain documents to the public.

Since I’d been denied records by a former governor who cited executive privilege, a decision backed up by a past attorney general, I assumed there was a strong likelihood the court would side with those who felt executive privilege existed.

What was disturbing though, was the court’s refusal to narrow the privilege that was created by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving President Richard Nixon and his attempt to hide recordings made in his office. The release of the Oval Office tapes was the final nail in Nixon’s coffin, politically speaking at least.

One reading of the majority opinion in Freedom Foundation v. Gregoire raises a fear that the court might have made the executive privilege in Washington state broader than anywhere else.

Visit The News Tribune for more.

In addition, please find more background and coverage here.

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September 20, 2013 9:19 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.

York (VA) supervisors' planned secret meetings with business execs raise questions

image of Access keyYORK, VA — A request by the parent company of the former Yorktown refinery to meet privately and secretly with members of the York County Board of Supervisors next week has raised questions about open government practices and what's next for the facility. According to emails between York County officials and the supervisors, executives from Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline requested to meet with members of the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 27. The purpose of the meeting, according to the emails, is to brief the supervisors on the improvements and plans for the facility, which the company is converting to an oil transportation terminal.

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Arizona Republic, 12 News sue for Yarnell records

The Arizona Republic and 12 News have filed suit against the Yavapai County Sheriff’s and Medical Examiner’s offices over their refusal to release investigative records from the Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy that left 19 hotshots dead. The two Gannett news organizations allege in a civil complaint filed Wednesday in Yavapai County Superior Court that diagrams, some photographs and other documents are public records under state law, and Arizona residents have a compelling interest in learning what led to the demise of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots nearly three months ago.

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Editorial: Open meetings should stay open (VA)

Last week, Virginia’s FOIA Advisory Council declined to take up Hanover County’s request to review the definition of a public meeting. Hanover’s seven-member board of supervisors originally voted to ask the legislature to change the statute that prohibits more than two elected officials from meeting to discuss public business, a change that would impact every elected body in the state and would diminish transparency in every county, city and incorporated town.

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University of Washington fined $723,000 for withholding records

SEATTLE (AP) — A King County judge fined the University of Washington $723,000 for withholding public records from a faculty member who sued because she believed she was wrongfully denied tenure at the Tacoma campus. The documents turned up after Isabelle Bichindaritz lost her discrimination lawsuit in federal court, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

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Future bright for open data movement (CA)

California is home to the Innovation capital of the world—the Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs and innovators spend countless hours creating new technology that brings the people closer to their state and local governments. That technology, coupled with a raised expectation with citizens for more transparency and accountability, has ignited a movement called open data or open government. Municipalities throughout the state have moved to provide data to the people. San Francisco is one of the first cities to hire a Chief Innovation Officer. The City also has an open data policy. The city of Palo Alto has an extensive open data platform.

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The News Tribune wins Washington First Amendment award

SEATTLE (AP) — The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., is the winner of this year's Ted Natt First Amendment Award for its commitment to fighting for access to public records and the principles of open government. The award presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association in Seattle honored the paper for its defense of the First Amendment and deep reporting on a wide range of issues.

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Editorial: A victory for open government in Washington

During last fall’s general election, we were heartened that both candidates for state attorney general, Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn, promised to restore to full-time status the position of open government assistant attorney general. Ferguson won the election, and this week he made good on the promise. Then-Attorney General Rob McKenna created the position in 2005 to help the public get better access to government information. The job also is designed to assist in resolving disputes and to answer questions from the public, media and government staff. Budget cutbacks during the recent economic recession prompted McKenna to make the job half-time.

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Springfield (IL) police chief says he resisted document destruction

Soon-to-be-retired Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams voiced concerns about destroying certain internal affairs files but was overruled, according to a transcript of his sworn deposition obtained by The State Journal-Register. Williams said the decision to shred the files, including those of now-Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher, came during a meeting attended by then-Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen, Buscher, Williams and Bill Logan, the mayor’s executive assistant.

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Local women's league sponsors FOIA forum (VA)

Today, for the first time at the local level, the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County will be sponsoring an event for the public on open government and the Freedom of Information Act. It is a topic that affects all citizens, but by being more informed, community members can make an even bigger difference in local government.

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N.M. open government group sues to force audit release

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of an audit that identified potential overbillings and fraud by providers of mental health and substance abuse services. The Human Services Department has frozen payments to more than a dozen behavioral health providers because of the fraud allegations.

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September 10, 2013 3:46 PM

From The News Tribune:  A state appeals court panel has ruled that now-retired Pierce County Judge Frederick Fleming was wrong to award $650,000 in damages and fees to an abuse victim who sued the Department of Social and Health Services to get investigative records.

In a decision released Tuesday, the Division II panel ruled some of the records sought by Amber Wright were not subject to the state's Public Records Act and that others were not improperly withheld by DSHS because Wright's request for them was too vague.

[. . .]

The recording and transcript, as juvenile records governed by separate statute, are not subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act, they ruled. They also decided Wright never specifically asked for the protocols, so DSHS was not obligated to turn them over.

Continue >>

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Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/09/10/2776762/appeals-court-voids-650k-award.html#storylink=

 


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/09/10/2776762/appeals-court-voids-650k-award.html#storylink=cpy
September 6, 2013 12:50 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.

Sunshine Law proponents sue city of Groveland

image of Access keyA Sarasota-based organization that seeks compliance with Florida’s open-government laws is suing Groveland to block its transfer of police dispatching services to Lake County. ... In that suit, Citizens for Sunshine Inc. contends a meeting Mayor James Gearhart and Vice Mayor Tim Loucks reportedly had on June 20 with a police sergeant in a grocery store parking lot, where police dispatching was allegedly discussed at length, “tainted” a council vote on Aug. 19 to hand over those services to the sheriff’s office.

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Aide to San Diego mayor suggested deleting certain public records

SAN DIEGO -- Handwritten notes obtained by San Diego 6 show that one of former Mayor Bob Filner's top aides suggested deleting text messages, even though she acknowledged they were "technically public records." The notes, taken by then-Deputy Chief of Staff Lee Burdick, were obtained as part of a California Public Records Act Request by San Diego 6.

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Wyoming governor's office releases about 17,000 pages of e-mails to superintendent Cindy Hill

Governor Matt Mead says his office has been working hard to comply with Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill’s public records request for certain e-mails between members of his staff and the Wyoming Department of Education. Mead says it takes a lot of time to go through the e-mails and make sure they are not releasing information they are not legally allowed to. Mead says to date his office has released about 17,000 pages of e-mails,

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Conn. FOI lawyer: Release Newtown 911 calls

HARTFORD — An attorney with Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission has recommended the release of 911 recordings from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012, siding with The Associated Press in a dispute over records withheld by investigators. The full, nine-member commission is to hold a September 25 hearing before issuing its final decision on whether the recordings should be handed over to the AP.

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Washington high court rules to release psychological report in Seattle slayings

The state Supreme Court has ruled against sealing a psychological evaluation that found Dr. Louis Chen competent to stand trial on two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the August 2011 deaths of his partner and their young son in Seattle. ... The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and the Washington Defender Association, Disability Rights of Washington and the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers submitted briefs in support of Chen’s argument. Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the Washington Coalition for Open Government filed a joint brief in support of the state’s position.

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Ohio Supreme Court allows lawsuit over traffic stop dashcam video

The Ohio State Highway Patrol does not want to give up dashcam footage of a traffic stop from two years ago. Motorist Mark Miller insists the video record of a July 15, 2011 drunk driving stop exists, but state officials refuse to disclose it, citing an exemption for withholding public records related to open criminal investigations. Miller challenged the refusal all the way to the state Supreme Court which ruled Tuesday in Miller's favor by ordering the State Patrol to prove the exemption actually applies. As a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, Miller sought to document abuse of power related to traffic incidents involving state Trooper Joseph Westhoven.

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Opinion: Florida records public, but not free

Lourdes Ramirez spent almost two days looking through public records to get a better understanding of Sarasota County's 2050 plan. She did get a few insights. And so did we, although our eye-openers had nothing to do with the county's blueprint for growth east of Interstate 75.

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Ohio patrol must prove records are exempt, justices rule

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the State Highway Patrol must prove that materials withheld from a public-records request are exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Public Records Act. Now, a southwestern Ohio man’s request for records from the patrol will be heard again by the 12th District Court of Appeals after the 7-0 ruling, released yesterday.

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WATCHDOG: South Dakota makes more info available online

You can now go to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources site to look up production and ownership data on oil and gas wells. You can also get DENR public notices. And you can go to the state Department of Labor and Regulation site for market-conduct examinations by insurance companies. It's a trend that's good for everyone: citizens don't have to make time-consuming FOIA requests and state workers don't have to spend time processing said requests and looking for information.

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NM governor accused of open records violations

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The Santa Fe Reporter has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez, alleging violations of the state's open records laws as well as retaliation by her office against the alternative weekly. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in state district court. It alleges seven instances where the governor's office failed to produce calendars, emails, documents about pardons and other material sought by the Reporter under the state's Inspection of Public Records Act.

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August 30, 2013 9:19 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.

Battle Ground (Wash.) school board violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act, expert claims

image of Access keyBattle Ground school board members violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act when they voted behind closed doors in executive session to spend $400,000 to buy out the contract of the district superintendent, said one of the state's top advocates for open government. "If they voted in a secret meeting to spend $400,000 and didn't bring it to a public vote, that's completely illegal," said Toby Nixon, president of Washington Coalition for Open Government. "If the vote was held behind closed doors in executive session, whether it was part of a regular meeting or a special meeting, then under the Open Public Meetings Act, that action is null and void," he said.

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San Mateo County debuts records database

In a gesture of transparency, county officials earlier this month debuted the Open Data Portal, a new online listing of arcane spreadsheets and miscellaneous public information. The data might seem scattershot right now, but San Mateo County officials say it’s just the start of what they believe will revolutionize local public records. County Supervisors Dave Pine and Warren Slocum championed committing $460,000 in Measure A sales tax money to fund the new database over the next two years with the goal to to push any and all public information onto the site. The site is expected to grow exponentially as a warehouse for all county records for public perusal. Pine described it as a “living and evolving” project. “My bias is: the more data, the better,” he said.

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Florida governor appoints special prosecutor to investigate public defender's office

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed the state attorney for the Gainesville area Thursday to investigate allegations about the deletion of public records and questionable behavior in the office of Public Defender Matt Shirk reported this week in the Times-Union. . . . In the order appointing Cervone, Scott assigned him to investigate the Public Defender’s Office for “potential prosecution and all matters related to allegations of public records laws violations and any related misconduct.”

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Hanover County (Va.) supervisors want state agency to review Va.’s open meeting rules

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in July asking the Virginia General Assembly to change open government regulations to allow larger groups of locally elected officials to meet behind closed doors without notifying the public. “While there was some initial adverse reaction to this, it might be better if there was a calm, deliberate study of this over the course of the next year by the (Freedom of Information Act) Advisory Council, at which point they’ll make a recommendation to members of the General Assembly,” said Hanover County Attorney Sterling E. Rives III.

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Eagan appointed chair of state Connecticut FOI commission

A lawyer and former deputy mayor of West Hartford has been chosen to serve as chairman of Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission. The appointment of Owen Eagan was announced Tuesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Eagan is a partner with the firm Eagan, Donohue, Van Dyke & Falsey and a former town councilor and deputy mayor in West Hartford.

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Release of L.A. teachers' performance ratings delayed by judge

. . . [T]he teachers union argued that "immediate release of the scores will cause irreparable harm to privacy rights, and that harm dramatically outweighs any prejudice or inconvenience that might be caused by a brief delay in public release of the records" pending the appeal. The Times had opposed a delay, arguing that the Legislature had severely restricted agencies from using appeals as a delaying tactic to keep public records secret. The Public Records Act bars courts from ordering delays unless those fighting disclosure have a probable chance of success and would suffer "irreparable damage" by the release of documents before the case was settled.

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Orange County Health Care Agency wants $54,371 to produce email records

Orange County’s Health Care Agency (HCA) wants to charge $54,371 for a response to a Voice of OC public records request to review emails from the last six months of 2012 – a whopping $338.14 for each day of emails reviewed. The request asks for electronic copies of any emails referencing the names of six different drugs, exchanged between Dr. Clayton Chau, a former psychiatrist at the agency, and members of its formulary committee, which routinely evaluates the master list of approved medications, between 2007 and 2012. . . . Voice of OC has requested a breakdown of this cost estimate. The California Public Records Act, established in 1968, does not allow government entities to charge fees for inspecting records or the cost to search, review and delete information. They can, however, charge for the cost of copies and for data compilation and extraction of information from electronic records.

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Court rules Atlantic City marketing arm not subject to public scrutiny

An advocate of open government has lost a lawsuit that sought to have Atlantic City’s casino-funded marketing coalition declared a public agency. John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, claimed that the Atlantic City Alliance is actually an arm of government and should have to disclose its records to the public. But a New Jersey appeals court ruled Tuesday that the ACA is the “private” part of a public-private partnership between the state and the casino industry to help revive Atlantic City’s tourism.

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August 28, 2013 10:54 AM

From Mercer Island Reporter:  Those looking for a more transparent government are increasingly relying on public records to make it happen.

They hope the more documents they obtain, the clearer their view of what’s really going on behind closed doors in school districts, city halls and county buildings.

But there are those throughout the public sector convinced some of these Washingtonians are abusing the Public Records Act.

An alliance of government forces — whose members often are the targets of the records — tried unsuccessfully earlier this year to rewrite the act to make it easier to repel requesters whose motives they question.

Continue . . .

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August 23, 2013 8:49 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.

US seeks to shield emails about emergency network

The Department of Justice obtained temporary legal relief Tuesday to block the release of emails to and from an Iowa sheriff who serves on a federal board charged with building a high-speed broadband network for emergency responders.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court gives state judges power to rule over public records

image of Access keyPennsylvania’s highest court is leaving it up to judges to resolve disputes over access to public records under the state’s Right to Know Law. Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law was overhauled five years ago and the Office of Open Records was created. The state Supreme Court has now ruled in the case of a Pittsburgh newspaper’s request for information about the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and how Commonwealth Court handled an appeal of a decision by the Office of Open Records.

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Battle to restrict Washington public records requests heats up

Those looking for a more transparent government are increasingly relying on public records to make it happen. They hope the more documents they obtain the clearer their view of what's really going on behind closed doors in school districts, city halls and county buildings. But there are those throughout the public sector convinced some of these Washingtonians are abusing the Public Records Act.

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California lawmakers to review public records bill

Senate Constitutional Amendment 3, introduced by San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno, would let the state opt out of reimbursing local governments for public meetings and records requests. Those governments would still have to comply with the California Public Records Act and Ralph M. Brown Act, two laws that force local agencies to hold open meetings and allow access to records, but under the proposal would now have to absorb the compliance costs on their own. The state is currently required to reimburse local agencies for those public services.

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Concerns raised about membership of Connecticut panel

The president of a Connecticut open government advocacy group is questioning the makeup of a task force charged with recommending how to balance victim privacy with the public's right to know, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. James Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, said Wednesday he's concerned the 17-member panel appears weighted in favor of keeping certain information from public release.

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Lawsuit filed over charge for public records in West Palm Beach

A millionaire has filed lawsuits that challenge charges for a public record he requested from the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office. In the lawsuits filed Tuesday, Marty O'Boyle is challenging charges of $1.89 and $739.46. He told The Palm Beach Post (http://bit.ly/176vtV9 ) he filed the charges to help the little guy. "If they're going to refuse to give five public records to a guy like me, what are they going to do for the working guy who doesn't have the resources I do?" O'Boyle said.

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Belgrade (Mont.) High School principal refuses to hand over public records

Belgrade High School Principal Russ McDaniel refused to hand over public documents Thursday regarding a contract for a story on vending machines. McDaniel said he was “too busy” and the public records request was “not a high priority” for him. ... Montana law reads “every citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of public writings of this state...” The law further reads that public documents are available for inspection at all times during office hours.

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Click Cable TV, broadcasters keep fees secret in Tacoma

Each month, the city of Tacoma writes checks to broadcast companies for the right to carry their programming on the city’s cable network. Those checks, like other expenditures by government agencies, are public records — public, that is, unless you want to know the amounts. Click Cable TV, in response to a request from The News Tribune, said the public is barred from knowing how much the city pays local broadcasters. Tacoma Public Utilities, which operates Click, recently released images of the checks it issued to five broadcast companies between 2007 and 2013 with the amounts blacked out ... Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/08/21/2743400/click-cable-tv-broadcas...

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Macomb County (Mich.) board uses FOIA to get budget documents from county exec's office

When Macomb County commissioners couldn’t get information they wanted from the county executive’s office, they did what any citizen might do. They filed a Freedom of Information Act request. They were then told the request would cost them $300 in copying fees. The fees were waived last week after at least one commissioner called it ludicrous for the county to be charging the county board for information. ... “This is outrageous on a number of levels,” Commissioner Fred Miller said during Wednesday’s meeting.

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August 13, 2013 2:14 PM

From Seattle Times:  The King County Housing Authority says it got bad legal advice when it held unannounced meetings of a nonprofit it formed in 2009.

The housing authority set up the nonprofit, Moving King County Residents Forward, as a separate organization to get a better deal on federal housing subsidies for 22 properties around King County.

[...]

The problem emerged when a resident happened upon an unannounced meeting of Moving King County Residents Forward at the housing authority offices in Tukwila. The nonprofit had the same board, staff and address as the King County Housing Authority, but it was behaving as a private entity instead of a public one.

The resident, Cindy Ference, of Shoreline, sued. This month, she reached a settlement with the housing authority and Moving King County Residents Forward, formalizing the organization’s promise to make its meetings, minutes and documents public and transparent.

The National Freedom of Information Coalition in Columbia, Mo., which helped fund Ference’s lawsuit, said the nonprofit was essentially a “sham entity.”

“Setting up a supposedly private entity to do the public’s business in secret is a shameful practice that should not be tolerated by the public or the courts,” said Ken Bunting, the executive director of the organization.

[...]

Ference settled the open-meetings portion of her lawsuit, but she is still in litigation over public records she said the housing authority wouldn’t give her.

Get the rest from the Times here, and see the press release about the settlement here.

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July 30, 2013 10:06 AM

From Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal:  The Freedom Foundation has announced that former Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag will become its Senior Fellow for Government Accountability.

Sonntag, who served 20 years as state auditor, is an advocate of open and accountable government. He was honored earlier this year by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, which inducted him into the State Open Government Hall of Fame.

During his time in office, the Freedom Foundation and Sonntag often worked together. Both were involved in the political fight to win performance audit authority for the Auditor’s office. The Freedom Foundation often cited fiscal and performance audit findings in research and testimony, urging legislators to put many audit findings into law.

“Brian Sonntag and the Freedom Foundation, it’s a great fit,” said foundation CEO Jonathan Bechtle. “We have worked with Brian his whole time in office. He is a respected leader who has risen above partisanship, standing up for citizens against government waste, fraud, and inefficiency.

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The Freedom Foundation is a member of NFOIC. --eds.

July 19, 2013 10:46 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.

Toledo mayor refuses to release a police department gang-turf map

In the face of political criticism during a tough election year and despite near-condemnation from a First Amendment expert, Mayor Mike Bell dug in his heels Thursday and refused to release a police department gang-turf map. In a 2-1 decision dated Friday, the 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo had concluded the gang map is not exempt from disclosure under Ohio public-records law and ordered the city to turn it over to The Blade within 10 days.

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Oklahoma Corporation Commission to determine phone records privacy on a case-by-case basis

State regulators will determine the confidentiality of telecommunications companies' records on a case-by-case basis in an effort to balance the interests of consumers and of the telecom firms, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission decided Thursday. The three-member commission, which regulates utilities and the oil and gas industry, voted 2-1 to dismiss a proposal to make a general determination about what records would be kept confidential and out of the public's eye while still complying with the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Commissioner Bob Anthony ... said that while the law authorizes the quasi-judicial commission to keep trade secrets and certain records confidential, he saw nothing in the law that authorizes commissioners to issue protective orders to keep a company's proprietary information secret.

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Arkansas Secretary of State legal action questioned

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by blogger Matt Campbell took a twist this week that could spell trouble for Secretary of State Mark Martin. Campbell filed a lawsuit in June to compel Martin’s office to comply with a document request. Martin’s office supplied some copies of the documents Campbell was seeking, but provided them in PDF format not in the original Word format in the request. Martin, a Republican, and Campbell, who describes his blog as “unabashedly progressive, populist, and liberal” have a long history of antagonism regarding FOIA requests and ensuing spats over information disclosure.

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Second Amendment Foundation sues City of Seattle over withheld public records

The Second Amendment Foundation today filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, alleging that the city did not fully comply with a request for documents relating to January’s gun buyback under the Public Records Act. According to SAF Special Projects Director Philip Watson, the foundation asked for all communications and other related documents in February under the PRA, and in return received more than 1,500 electronically reproduced e-mails between five people on Mayor Mike McGinn’s staff. Allegedly missing were other communications, notes and meeting agendas, including an e-mail exchange with, and regarding, Seattle gun rights activist Ralph Fascitelli.

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Open meetings, records act seminar slated for Kansas communities

The Kansas Attorney General's Office, Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, Kansas Press Association and Kansas Newspaper Foundation are making stops around the state next week, including one Monday in Garden City, to offer training seminars on the Kansas Open Meetings and Kansas Open Records acts. ... KPA participants will be Garden City Telegram Editor-Publisher Dena Sattler, who is the president of the KPA Board of Directors; Brian McCauley, Miami County Republic; Tomari Quinn, editor and director of audience development for the Topeka Capital-Journal; Tim Carpenter, Capital-Journal Statehouse bureau chief; Andrew Nash, Pittsburg Morning Sun managing editor; Sharon Friedlander, Colby Free Press publisher; and KPA Executive Director Doug Anstaett.

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Survey finds U.S. counties leading the way with open government, citizen engagement and transparency

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) have announced the 2013 Digital Counties Survey winners. The annual survey recognizes leading examples of counties using technology to improve services and efficiency. Here's a look at the first-place winners.

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Willows publisher wins appeal in school district public records case

Tim Crews, a grizzled, hell-raising country publisher, is off the hook for $56,595 he was ordered by a Glenn County judge to pay to attorneys who defended a school district he sued. Contrary to the judge's ruling that the lawsuit was frivolous, three justices of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento found Wednesday that it "lacked merit but was not frivolous." "Consequently, we reverse the award of attorney fees and costs to the district," the appellate panel ruled in a 20-page published opinion. The decision brought the Willows-based Sacramento Valley Mirror back from the brink of extinction. Crews would not have been able to pay the fees, and his newspaper would have folded.

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Records request unleashes cross-(Washington)-state criticism

... The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) made “relief from harassing and abusive public records requests” a top priority in Olympia this year, citing claims of prison inmates and others filing requests just to harass officials at great expense to taxpayers. The resulting House Bill 1128 would have allowed agencies to determine on their own whether a specific public records request was indeed just harassment. And it would have allowed them to sue citizens to stop asking. Open government advocates rallied hard to stop it, and did, but expect that the fight is not over. To prepare for it, the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) is asking agencies for records that show just how big a burden records request are. They filed public records requests via email, including one sent to Coulee Dam’s town clerk on July 4.

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South Carolina Supreme Court allows radio host's public records lawsuit to proceed

A radio host’s 2009 public records lawsuit will get another look after the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case ... The lawsuit stems from a 2009 public records request made by Rocky Disabato seeking documents that showed discussion between the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and then-Gov. Mark Sanford about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as well as telephone records. The association stated it was exempt from the state’s public records law because it is a nonprofit corporation ...

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