Volume 1, Issue 12

FOI InSight, an open government newsletter
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FOI InSight is a publication from the National Freedom of Information Coalition featuring and aggregating news and analysis about FOI and open government issues, and delivering items of interest to and about our state member organizations, partners and stakeholders. 

We welcome suggestions for future newsletters and ask that you send us ideas for and links to news about your organization and other FOI and open government-related items and events.

 


 

NFOIC - MLRC Open Government Survey III is underway

Knowledgeable segments of NFOIC’s membership, along with a select group of members of the New York-based Media Law Resource Center (MLRC), are being asked to participate in OpenGov Survey 2013, the third in a series of research projects by the two organizations regarding open government trends, issues tand legal actions. MLRC and NFOIC collaborated on similar surveys in 2009 and in 2011.  Continue ...

 

 Members in the News 


 

Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas announces James Madison Award recipients

Former El Paso Times reporter Zahira Torres and editor Robert Moore will be honored next month with Texas' most prestigious open-government award for their work exposing cheating at the El Paso Independent School District. The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas announced Monday that Torres and Moore were selected as this year's recipient of the James Madison Award.  Continue ...

 

Ohio Coalition for Open Government is on the move

From Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association:  We think it is important to find ways to raise the profile of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government, which is a non-profit group under the umbrella of our Ohio Newspapers Foundation. The OCOG board and ONA Executive Committee members recently held a strategic planning retreat. I hope you share our excitement about some of these goals for the coming 12 months ...  Continue ...

 

Hall of Fame inductee Brian Sonntag joins Freedom Foundation

The Freedom Foundation has announced that Brian Sonntag, who was inducted into the State Open Government Hall of Fame during this year's FOI Summit in New Orleans, will become its Senior Fellow for Government Accountability. Sonntag, who served 20 years as the elected state auditor in Washington state, is an advocate of open and accountable government.  Continue ...

 

Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition hires executive director

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (formerly Colorado Freedom of Information Council), an alliance of groups and individuals committed to ensuring the transparency of state and local governments in Colorado, has named Jeffrey A. Roberts as executive director. Roberts, who has worked in journalism and public policy in Colorado for nearly 30 years, will lead a recharged effort to educate citizens and officials on the public's constitutional right to access information on government institutions – how they operate and how policies are decided.  Continue ...

 

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government calls for release of health audit

The state must publicly release an audit that flagged 15 New Mexico health organizations, three of which are in Las Cruces, for problems including overbilling and possible fraud, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government says.  Continue ...

 

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government presents Sunshine Hero award

Spring Hill resident Mike Bennett, a longtime Daily Herald columnist and community activist, was awarded the first ever Tennessee Sunshine Hero award by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government at the annual Tennessee Press Association awards ceremony.. Bennett’s efforts to improve transparency in Maury County are unrivaled.  Continue ...

 

Kansas officials learn about open meetings and open records in seminar

Jointly presented by the Kansas Attorney General's Office, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, and the Kansas Press Association, the seminar featured a panel comprised of Ron Keefover, president of the coalition and information officer for the Kansas Supreme Court, Doug Anstaett, executive director of the KPA, and Dena Sattler, editor-publisher of The Garden City Telegram and president of the KPA Board.  Continue ...

 

 Analysis & Commentary 


 

Craig A. Newman: Advancing Internet freedom doesn’t come for free

As the great promise of the Arab Spring turns into a much darker reality, it is increasingly clear that the United States is failing in its commitment to use technology to advance worldwide democracy. ... The federal financial commitment to Internet freedom amounted to about $30 million in 2012 — a tiny sum to begin with and a scant annual increase from the $76 million spent between 2008 and 2011.  Continue ...

 

Terry Francke: Push in Sacramento to seal pension data based on false premises

Recent press reporting suggests that legislators in Sacramento, pressured by state employee unions and retiree associations, may be considering amending the California Public Records Act to exempt from public disclosure the names of CalPERS pensioners linked to their retirement payments -- information that's been open to public scrutiny for the past 28 years.  Continue ...

 

 InSight HighLights 


 

Federal food stamp program lacks transparency

The lack of transparency regarding the federal food stamp program, known as known as "SNAP," short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was the subject of this strong column by writers Felice Freyer and Irene Wielawski published in today's Los Angeles Times. NFOIC executive director Kenneth Bunting was one of the signers of the letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that is referenced in the column.  Continue ...

 

Government Public Affairs Offices: More Hindrance Than Help?

Public affairs offices increasingly require that reporters conduct all interviews through the press office. More ominously, U.S. departments and agencies often mandate that their employees only talk to reporters through official channels and with communications staff present--or face the risk of disciplinary action. In that same vein, former U.S. officials say that federal personnel seeking to obtain or renew security clearances are sometimes asked if they have had unauthorized contact with a reporter ...  Continue ...

 

Mackinac Center, ACLU officials push for greater government transparency

Improving local and state government transparency was the driving focus of a Wednesday discussion sponsored by a well-known conservative think tank. In an effort to address issues with government transparency in Michigan, particularly within the constrains of the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy hosted a public meeting at Northwood University Wednesday, July 24, as part of its "Open Government Initiative."  Continue ...

 

 News from the States 


 

NEFAC Open Government News for July 2013

The NEFAC Report -- New England's monthly right-to-know dispatch This month: Electronic Chatter Among Officials at Public Meetings Raises Issues of Transparency ... Chafee Signs Legislation Shielding RI School Safety Plans from Public View ... A Year Later, Exemptions Chipping Away at RI Open Records Law ... Deadline for Applications to the 2013 NEFAC Institute is Aug. 20 ...  Continue ...

 

State FOIA Friday

See the latest State FOIA Friday for FOI and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. The latest issue includes: Wisconsin DOJ sets 3 seminars on public records, meetings ... California appellate court again says all cops in pepper-spray incident must be named publicly ... Hanover County Board of Supervisors plans to ask the Virginia General Assembly to modify the state’s open meeting laws ... Making Maryland more transparent ... Open government in Texas is getting more open thanks to new state laws ... Illinois Appellate Court narrows Attorney General's FOIA opinion on communications on elected officials' private devices ... Seminar features overview, helpful tips on open government laws ... Read more from the latest State FOIA Friday and be sure to check out our archives from Fridays past.

 

About NFOIC
The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects our right to open government. We are a nonpartisan alliance of citizen-driven nonprofit freedom of information organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys. Twice annually, NFOIC awards grants to strengthen state coalitions and member organizations, foster their growth, and support a broad range of open government endeavors in individual states. The NFOIC also administers the Knight FOI Fund, which offers financial support to defray costs and expenses in open government lawsuits throughout the year.

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