NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for October 5, 2012

October 5, 2012 2:32 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:

Advocates fight to keep Georgia archives open to public

Getting to state archives will become a lot more difficult after Nov. 1. That’s when the Georgia Archives, a repository of records and artifacts that go back to the 1700s, is slated to be closed to the public. The only public access will be through limited appointments. ...The prospect has put the Georgia Archives in national news as the only state archives in the United States whose public records will be closed to the public.

Visit CrossRoadsNews.com for the rest.

Asheville Police Evidence Room Audit Sparks Public Records Debate

The Police Evidence Room in Asheville is the subject of an intense public records battle. More than a year ago, a partial audit revealed guns, drugs, and cash were missing. The police chief resigned. Another, more thorough audit has been completed. But the district attorney won’t release its findings. He says it’s part of an ongoing SBI investigation. A coalition of media groups sued for the audit’s release, and last week, a judge sided with the DA.

Visit WFAE for the rest.

SC justices hear clash over what documents should be made public

COLUMBIA — State Supreme Court justices quizzed lawyers on both sides of a thorny issue Wednesday involving a statewide public school advocacy group, freedom of speech and the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. “What we have here is an unprecedented case,” attorney Kevin Hall told the justices. Hall, a Columbia lawyer, is representing Rocky Disabato, a Charleston man who sued the S.C. Association of School Administrators seeking access to its internal records, including telephone records.

Visit HeraldOnline.com for the rest.

Shhhh. We're litigating.

Under Illinois law, the proceedings of some court cases are kept hidden from public view. This can make sense in narrow circumstances ...Judges, though, have broad discretion to decide when court records are sealed. ...The Tribune investigation found that judges regularly fail to give a reason in their orders for the so-called "sealing" of files, as they should to comply with the law and court guidelines. They sometimes keep the "sealing orders" secret as well, so the public has no way to know that a case has been hidden. They also seal entire cases when they need only to remove sensitive information such as home addresses or Social Security numbers.

Visit Chicago Tribune for the rest.

Albuquerque mayor Berry receives award for open government

Albuquerque's mayor gets an award for open government - but some city-dwellers said he doesn't deserve it. The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government praises Mayor Richard Berry for openness and transparency at City Hall, while community activists said he is about as transparent as a concrete wall.

Visit KOB.com for the rest.

California open-meetings law based on local lawsuit

A new law that creates a low-cost way of asking local boards and commissions to adhere to open-meetings laws has its roots here in Tulare County. The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, allows members of the public to send local government bodies a cease-and-desist letter if they believe government agencies have violated the series of state open meetings laws known as the Brown Act. The government agency can avoid a court case if it makes an unconditional promise to stop the problem behavior. If it refuses, it allows the case to continue on in court.

Visit Visalia Times-Delta for the rest.

Records show stun gun use against people in mental crises, Vt.

Ten times in the past 18 months, state police fired electronic stun guns at people threatening suicide or at others experiencing a mental health crisis. That's according to police records and video recordings obtained by Vermont Public Radio under the state's open records law.

Visit Vermont Public Radio for the rest.

County records in Pa.to be available online for public viewing

Schuylkill County residents will soon be able to view county records online. The Schuylkill County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a document management software program from PropertyInfo Corp. during a work session Wednesday.

Visit The Republican-Herald for the rest.

Ballot measure to increase California government transparency may incur costs

This November, Berkeley residents will vote on a ballot measure aiming to increase transparency in local government, despite an existing ordinance adopted just last year that planned to accomplish similar goals. ...Though the city’s earlier Open Government Ordinance was adopted in 2011 to meet similar goals of increased public record and meeting access, the new ordinance would replace the current ordinance and create a new oversight committee that could enact harsher punishments — including a lawsuit as a last resort — for officials who do not comply with the new provisions.

Visit The Daily Californian for the rest.

Open government advocates praise Tenn. comptroller's move to waive 1st $25 in records requests

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Comptroller Justin Wilson's move to automatically waive the first $25 in fees for public records requests is drawing praise from open government advocates. The proposed rules, which would also give the comptroller the discretion to waive all costs related to public record searches and copies, were unanimously recommended for adoption by the Joint Government Operations Committees on Wednesday. "The fee waiver provisions are progressive for Tennessee and should be a model for other state and local agencies," said Frank Gibson, the founding director of the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Montpelier records request yields councilors’ texts

MONTPELIER — The results of a public records request made by The Times Argus has put the spotlight on the latest trend among some public officials: texting and emailing one another during public meetings. While the issue is not illegal, it closes in on unethical behavior, and Secretary of State Jim Condos cautioned Tuesday that elected officials should be careful if they continue with the practice.

Visit Times Argus for the rest.

Changes to Georgia's open government laws could close student discipline hearings to public

ATLANTA — Changes to Georgia's open government laws may have an unintended consequence at the state's universities if student disciplinary hearings are no longer open to the public. The Red & Black, an independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia, recently requested records from student conduct hearings. UGA cited the new state law in denying the newspaper access to the records, Red & Black Publisher Harry Montevideo told The Associated Press. The university denied at least two records requests filed since July, said the paper's editorial adviser, Ed Morales.

Visit The Republic for the rest.

Wisconsin GOPers sued over potential ALEC ties

Two watchdog groups have filed a lawsuit against five Wisconsin state lawmakers; it claims that the Republicans violated the state’s public records law by failing to disclose private emails that may have tied them to the conservative advocacy group the American Legislative Exchange Council. ...According to the lawsuit, correspondence about ALEC in a private email account is still subject to a public records request, because it is “indisputably related to official government business. Wisconsin legislators are members of ALEC only by virtue of their status as a state legislator, and they correspond with ALEC in their official capacity as Wisconsin legislators.”

Visit Salon for the rest.