Volume 1, Issue 6

FOI InSight, an open government newsletter
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Sunshine Week 2013

As you doubtless are aware, Sunshine Week 2013, March 10 – March 16, is fast approaching. We know that many of you will be actively involved in the week’s events. In order to be apprised of what that involvement entails, we ask that you send us ideas for and/or links to the Sunshine Week events, observances and panels your organizations are conducting and/or in which you are participating.

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State Open Government Hall of Fame

Nominations for inclusion into the State Open Government Hall of Fame are now being accepted. Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame is a joint venture by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition. It was developed by leaders in both organizations as a way to recognize long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their respective states.

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2013 FOI Summit

The National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana bring you the 2013 FOI Summit on May 17 -18 in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is your best opportunity to get a clear view of the state of disclosure and access laws, state by state.

 Members in the News 
D.C. Open Government Coalition FOIA lawsuit prompts change in D.C. Council email policies
 
 
D.C. Councilmembers and staff cannot avoid the Freedom of InformationAct (FOIA) by doing business on personal, rather than government, email accounts, the Council of the District of Columbia agreed in settling a lawsuit brought by the D.C. Open Government Coalition.
 
 
FOI Oklahoma elects new officers, solicits award nominees
 
 
Charles Self, a professor at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma, is the new president of FOI Oklahoma Inc. The organization also elected Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor of the Tulsa World, as president-elect.
 
 
NEFAC names FOI and right-to-know award winners
 
 
One pursued a nine-year crusade that yielded an order refunding $53 million to New Hampshire public employees. The other cracked a shell of silence to expose misconduct in the New Britain, Conn., Police Department. Both are being recognized by the New England First Amendment Coalition with first-time presentations.
 
 
A survey of Virginia’s county and independent city websites
 
 
The Virginia Coalition for Open Government assesses and grades the performance of Virginia’s 134 counties and independent cities in providing easy online access to local government’s annual budget through its survey. As the performance varies from locality to locality, the county-by-city report card that follows the narrative and explanatory portion of the report includes every grade from A+ to F.
 
 
FAF announces 2013 E-manual ready for purchase
 
 
2013 Government-in-the-Sunshine Manual Kindle version is now available at Amazon.com. Links to the Florida statues and attorney general opinions are embedded in the manual.
 
 
 
How the states rate in providing online access to government spending data
 
 
The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending promotes fiscal responsibility, checks corruption, and bolsters public confidence. The Missouri Public Interest Research Group Foundation evaluates the progress of America’s 30 largest cities toward “Transparency 2.0” – a standard of encompassing, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.
 
 
A status report on FOIAonline
 
 
As you may know, OpenTheGovernment.org has been running a project that chronicles the experience of using FOIAonline as compared with other agencies’ processing systems. OpenTheGovernment.org offered a range of grades for FOIAonline and other agencies during a panel at “Transparency in the Obama Administration: A Fourth Year Assessment.”
 
 
 

2013 International Open Data Day
 
 
Anyone with an interest in open data is encouraged to come to the second Open Data Day Hackathon in Washing, D.C. on the International Open Data Day Feb 23, 2013. The hackathon is a gathering of citizens around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses related to government data.
 
 
 

NMFOG urges public officials to use official email accounts
 
 
It has long been our understanding that a public record is a public record no matter where it is located—a filing cabinet in the office, an employee’s briefcase at home, and more in laptops, phones and in the cloud. But the principle of open government remains the same: to ensure that everyone is entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of government employees.
 
 
Email to FOI advocate highlights basics of access laws
 
 
Recently, NFOIC executive director Ken Bunting corresponded with the leader of a counterpart freedom of information non-governmental organization in the Republic of Georgia, who had made a general inquiry about “laws that regulate openness of government meetings” and applicable exemptions and exceptions. In this email response, civic-minded and engaged Americans may see little that is new. But perhaps, it will serve as a reminder about the derivation of some of our precious freedoms, and their importance.
 
 
 

Keep light on in Missouri Sunshine Law
 
 
Balancing our rights and our safety can be a tough job, but the state has an opportunity to do just that. The General Assembly will soon consider a recently expired provision of the Sunshine Law that prevented information that could compromise security from becoming public.
 
 
Wisconsin Supreme Court rules law firm legal bills are public records
 
 
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Star-Times in a public records dispute with Juneau County. In a 4-3 decision issued on Jan 8, the high court let stand a 2011 appeals court ruling that granted the newspaper full access to legal bills issued by a Milwaukee law firm and paid by the county’s insurer.
 
 
Virginia FOIA exemption plan draws strong criticism
 
 
Virginia’s exemption-filled sunshine laws could turn partly to mostly cloudy. A bill filed by Delegate Tag Greason, R-Lansdowne, would add the correspondence and working papers of taxpayer-supported legislative aides to the list of items the state can lawfully deny the public.
 
 
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: Dangerous levees: How they got that story ... Wyoming court rules in favor of public records in UW presidential search ... South Dakota legislative committee kills two open government bills ... Public records indicate Eastern Municipal Water District funding San Diego public relations campaign for Metropolitan Water District ... Mississippi DMR agrees public entitled to agency records. Read more from the latest State FOIA Friday and be sure to check out our archives from Fridays past.
 
 
FOIA Events Calendar
 
 
Check the events calendar for FOI, FOIA, open government and transparency goings-on. Upcoming events includes: NEFAC's 3rd Annual Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award Luncheon, 2013 Ohio Newspaper Association Annual Convention, International Open Data Day 2013 Hackathon, Right to Information and Transparency in the Digital Age: Policy, Tools and Practices, 2013 Continuing Legal Education 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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