NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for May 31, 2013

May 31, 2013 3:58 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.

While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives and check out content from this year's FOI Summit at the 2013 FOI Summit Wrap-up.

The danger next door: Public often kept in the dark about stockpiles of explosive materials

WASHINGTON — Fears of terrorism have made it harder than ever for citizens to find out what dangerous chemicals lurk in their backyards, The Associated Press has found. Secrecy and shoddy record-keeping have kept the public and emergency workers in the dark about stockpiles of explosive material.

A monthlong reporting effort by the AP, drawing upon public records in 28 states, found more than 120 facilities within a potentially devastating blast zone of schoolchildren, the elderly and the sick. But how many others exist nationwide is a mystery, as other states refused to provide data.

Visit Washington Post for the rest.

Mackinac Center focusing on government transparency

The Mackinac Center has long been a proponent of open government, which is one of the attributes that attracted me to the Center when I signed on last summer. We think it’s now time to increase our efforts to improve transparency laws and equip citizens with training to ensure the accountability of elected officials.

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act are Watergate-era laws that badly need updating for the 21st century. These laws were adopted before email and computers became prevalent. Too often new technology is put up as a wall when government wants to prohibit or restrict what the public has a right to access.

We plan to publish a comprehensive study that recommends changes to the FOIA and OMA statutes.

Visit Mackinac Center for the rest.

Cuccinelli, McAuliffe trade barbs at luncheon celebrating open government

RICHMOND—Both gubernatorial candidates used speeches at a luncheon celebrating open government to accuse the other of a lack of transparency. Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe were back-to-back speakers at the Virginia Public Access Project’s annual fundraising lunch. VPAP maintains a website that tracks campaign finance data, lobbyist registrations, gifts to politicians and other kinds of elections and government data.

Visit fredericksburg.com for the rest.

Ohio sheriff accused of destroying records

ATHENS, Ohio - A sheriff in southeast Ohio is being criticized amid allegations that he illegally destroyed tons of public records during a cleaning of a storage area at his office. Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly has denied that he did anything wrong. But county officials say Kelly did not get the required approval to dispose of hundreds of boxes of sheriff's and prosecutors' records trucked to the landfill this month.

Visit WFMJ.com for the rest.

U. of Michigan alumnus files suit after University denied FOIA application

The University receives over 500 Freedom of Information Act requests each year, including several from The Michigan Daily. One request was from 2002 alum David Boyle in an attempt to obtain the external audit conducted in the fallout from the StephenJenson case — in which University officials waited six months to report that a medical resident was in possession of child pornography. Boyle was denied the FOIA on the basis that the information contained in the audit — conducted by the law firm Latham & Watkins — was protected under attorney-client privilege. The Michigan Daily, which had also filed a FOIA request, was denied on similar grounds.

Visit The Michigan Daily for the rest.

Miami-Dade public records go mobile

The clerk’s office Thursday is launching mobile access to a ton of public records. They include county real-estate records, marriage licenses and code-enforcement and parking violations. Other official records from the county recorder also will be available via mobile devices during the first phase of the project. The mobile portal at www.miami-dadeclerk.com — which requires no app download — works with a host of mobile devices, including iPhones, Androids and other smartphones, and with iPads and other tablets. Ruvin said the push into mobile is all about delivering services the way people want to use them.

Visit MiamiHerald.com for the rest.

Records watchdog challenges Volusia County Branch Jail on jail log request

DAYTONA BEACH — Joel Chandler walked into the Volusia County Branch Jail one afternoon in November and asked to see the visitors log. The jail staff wouldn't provide it without an official public records request. That wasn't the answer Chandler — a traveling open-records advocate who's filed more than 100 lawsuits around Florida — was looking for. That's how Volusia found itself part of a long list of local governments Chandler says violated the public's right to public records.

Visit News-JournalOnline.com for the rest.