NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for August 23, 2013

August 23, 2013 10:49 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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