NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for June 1, 2012

June 4, 2012 11:36 AM

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:

Georgia's new open budget law has low compliance

ATLANTA — About half the cities, counties and school districts have yet to comply with a state law designed to make it easier for taxpayers to see how their money is being spent.

[E]ven those who have supplied data have different ideas of what’s required. The Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government sent all 115 pages of its $756 million budget document, while that county’s school district supplied just one page for its $236 million spending blueprint.

Visit Augusta Chronicle for the rest.

Housing Fund won't disclose lawyer invoices

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Housing Development Fund doesn't want to say how it has spent $330,000 on outside legal fees during an ongoing federal investigation of state Treasurer John Perdue, who serves on the state housing agency's board.

The Housing Development Fund is keeping secret months of billing records that would show what individual private attorneys are charging and what they're doing.

Visit wvgazette.com for the rest.

Clerk proposes expansion of public records access

VICKSBURG, Miss. — Warren County Chancery Clerk Donna Farris Hardy wants more money to expand public access to court records.

The Vicksburg Post reports (http://bit.ly/LTwN3f) that Hardy also wants to offer the public more ways to pay fees.

Visit SunHerald.com for the rest.

State: Search warrants, unless sealed, are public records

RICHMOND — The public can now inspect search warrants and their accompanying affidavits in the Madison court clerk’s office despite both the circuit clerk and the chief deputy clerk previously stating that executed search warrants were not open records.

The Administrative Office of the Courts, the state agency that oversees court system operations, says search warrants have always been public documents, open to inspection by anyone who requests to see them.

Visit Richmond Register for the rest.

On open records, Walker and Barrett are imperfect

Advocates of open government often quiz candidates for public office on their level of support for official transparency. The candidates, when asked, always tout their commitment. That doesn’t mean they always deliver.

Both Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, have fielded many requests for public records. Indeed, since becoming governor, the Appleton Post-Crescent reported, Walker has seen “an explosion of requests.”

Visit Wisconsin Watch for the rest.

In Colorado, open records law can be a weapon against transparency

As the first state to pass a Sunshine Law for government meetings, Coloradans are justifiably proud of our state's history as a leader in safeguarding open government. Our guarantees of public access to government records, however, are not so enviable.

For those of us who routinely use the Colorado Open Records Act ("CORA") as a way of monitoring how state and local governments are serving their constituents, it was no surprise when the State Integrity Investigation gave Colorado an "F" grade on public access to information. Sadly, Coloradans have allowed our state's well-known aversion to taxation to trump our desire for open government, while aggressive government lawyers have figured out how to game the system to put citizens seeking public records on the defensive.

Visit Huffington Post for the rest.

Requesting public documents is about to get easier at EPA

The resulting system, due in September, will be used by at least EPA, the Commerce Department and the National Archives, said John Moses, director of EPA’s collection strategies division, who helped design the system. Some other agencies might sign on, Moses said, but participation is completely voluntary.

“For [just] EPA our estimate right now is we believe we can have a cost avoided or saved of about $3.5 million over five years,” Moses said. “That’s reducing costs, but it’s also efficiency gained by someone who doesn’t have to calculate the same invoice 5,000 times.”

Visit Nextgov.com for the rest.