Volume 1, Issue 4

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You've reached our open government newsletter, FOI InSight. We welcome suggestions for future newsletters and our FOIA Events Calendar, 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.

 FOI Audits 
Connecticut schools respond to FOIA requests for superintendent contracts
 
 
The New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Torrington Register Citizen are working on gathering all school chief contracts for Connecticut in order to build a searchable database. They also decided to test the responsiveness of each district under FOI law.
 
 
Managing FOIA: early observations on FOIAOnline
 
 
About a month ago, OpenTheGovernment.org launched Managing, a blog to chronicle its experience with the FOIA process at several agencies. In particular, OpenTheGovernment.org is interested in comparing how the process worked at agencies participating in FOIAOnline. The organization has received surprising responses from agencies that are both participating and not participating in FOIAOnline.
 
 
Transparency in the Obama Administration
 
 
A new Congressional Research Service report on government transparency and secrecy has been published by the Federation of American Scientists. The Collaboration on Government Secrecy also released the Obama Administration Secrecy/Transparency Scorecard, and will host a FOIA Community Conference, “Transparency in the Obama Administration--- A Fourth-Year Assessment.”
 
 
Google transparency report reveals government surveillance on the rise
 
 
This is the sixth time the Google company released data for its Transparency Report about about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web. One trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise. In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.
 
 
 
 

FBI ordered to pay nearly $500,000 in fees following FOIA lawsuit
 
 
A federal judge has ruled on Oct 17 that the FBI to pay nearly half a million dollars to a California-based author who successfully forced the bureau to release records concerning its secret relationship with Ronald Reagan in the years before he was president and other records concerning the FBI's covert activities at the University of California.
 
 
Washington Coalition for Open Government
 
 
The state Attorney General's Office and the Department of Corrections have each paid the Washington Coalition for Open Government $32,500 to settle an unusual public-records lawsuit, the coalition announced on October 22. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by the coalition, claiming the state was secretly helping a group of state employees sue the state.
 
 
Florida First Amendment Foundation Sunshine Report – Fall 2012
 
 
The First Amendment Foundation of Florida released its publication: FAF Sunshine Report – Vol. 3 Fall 2012. Highlight content of the publication includes Petersen Wraps up Annual Sunshine Seminars, FAF Creates New Legal Fellowship Position, and FAF Receives Two Project Grants from NFOIC.
 
 
Ohio Coalition for Open Government newsletter released
 
 
The fall 2012 edition of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government newsletter is now available. Highlights of the issue includes: Updates on OCOG, public notices and legislative issues from OCOG President Dennis Hetzel; analysis on a number of recent Ohio Supreme Court open government decisions by OCOG counsel David Marburger of Baker Hostetler; open government news and editorials from around the state and nation.
 
 
 

Following the campaign money
 
 
“There’s one result from the election that we likely won’t know for months or even years: the full meaning of this year’s massive run-up in campaign spending,” Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, wrote in his commentary True Effect of Big Campaign Spending Unclear. This package also has wrap-ups on campaign money published by ProPublica, Frontline, Center for Responsive Politics, Center for Public Integrity, Sunlight Foundation and other media groups.
 
 
Remarks on civility and the First Amendment
 
 
Kenneth F. Bunting, NFOIC’s executive director, shared his views on civility and the First Amendment at the 2012 MizzouDiversity Summit on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus. The summit brings the campus community together bi-annually to dialogue and plan strategies which help strengthen the MU identity as an environment or culture that values diversity in its many ways and forms.
 
 
Public's business shouldn't be 'private'
 
 
State Journal reporter Dean Mosiman obtained 7,656 emails and hundreds of texts exchanged during council meetings. He found that council members engaged in back-channel chatter with colleagues, lobbyists, staff and constituents on issues ranging from the silly to the substantive, including multi-million dollar subsidies for a proposed redevelopment project.
 
 
 
TRAC challenges ICE claim that data off- limits to public
 
 
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has filed a suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Oct. 22, challenging a ruling by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that its master repository of investigations and operations information is off-limits to the public.
 
 
ICE releases docs, then demands their return a year later
 
 
This is a first for us in all of EFF's history of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation—Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has demanded we return records it gave us more than a year ago. The release of these documents doesn't endanger national security or create a risk to an ongoing law enforcement investigation.
 
 
 

Del. water authority in public records dispute promises "information release" soon
 
 
The chairman of a Delaware water and sewer authority says he expects an "information release" soon in a public records dispute. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general's office against the water and sewer authority.
 
 
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam leaves open records rules unchanged
 
 
An eight-month review of how the executive branch responds to requests for public records has resulted in Gov. Bill Haslam deciding not to make any major changes. The Republican governor said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that his initial fears about the potential abuse of open-records laws had been allayed.
 
 
San Diego mayor grants millions in contracts without promised oversight
 
 
On March 20, 2012, the City Council gave the San Diego mayor’s office the sole authority to approve certain city contracts up to $30 million, many times higher than the spending thresholds of the county, the Port district, and the cities of Phoenix and San Jose combined. The strong mayor’s ceiling used to be $1 million.
 
 
UNC releases more documents from NCAA probe
 
 
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday released more than 2,500 pages of documents connected to an NCAA investigation of the football program as part of a settlement to end a public-records fight with media outlets.
 
 
GRAMA and public records illuminated I-15 project controversy
 
 
With the reconstructed Interstate 15 in Utah County open, it is fitting to look back at the role open records played in the controversial project.
 
 
2012 Max Dalton Open Government Award winner announced
 
 
Bob Henry of Nampa has been named the recipient of the 2012 Max Dalton Open Government Award sponsored by the Idaho Newspaper Foundation. The award has been given each year since 1999 to a citizen or group judged to be an outspoken advocate of openness in either public records or public meetings on the state or local level.
 
 
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: Ohio: Top lawyers analyze court rulings in new report; Georgia: Horgan files open meetings complaint over county mgr. interviews; New Jersey: Municipal Clerk to keep track of OPRA requests, and more.
Read more from the latest State FOIA Friday and be sure to check out our archives from Fridays past.
 
 
FOIA Calendar
 
 
Check the events calendar for FOI, FOIA, open government and transparency goings-on. Upcoming events includes: Government Records and Open Meetings in Minnesota, Virginia Coalition for Open Government Annual Conference, ASAP Annual Symposium & Training Conference, New Mexico Open Government Seminar, and more.
 
 
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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