NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for October 18, 2013

October 18, 2013 1:18 PM

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.

Ruling gives Washington governor's office 'Nixon-style' executive shield

image of Access keyIf Gov. Jay Inslee wants to withhold documents from the public about how he came to policy decisions — on anything from water quality regulations, to religious hospital mergers, to union negotiations — he now has the right to do that, as do all future Washington state governors. The Washington state Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 decision that the governor can claim “executive privilege” and refuse to make documents public indefinitely.

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Connecticut task force divided on privacy concerns

HARTFORD -- The news media need access to as much information as possible -- even gruesome photos -- about Connecticut homicides, in order to better inform the public, a task force looking into victim privacy was told Wednesday. But an attorney for many Newtown families whose loved ones were killed last Dec. 14 said that images of homicide victims should be exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act.

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Editorial: 911 transcripts are closed records in S.D.

I sat down with Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom yesterday to talk about last week's police pursuit in city streets that ended in a car wreck and death of a woman. ... The 911 records of the call might shed light on whether the reporting party identified the Impala's drivers as Native American. Regrettably — and predictably — 911 calls records in South Dakota are considered confidential. It puts us squarely in the minority of states.

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Officials jack up charges to keep public records from being released

A common refrain from government officials who defend the high cost of public records is that it’s just too time-consuming to drop what they’re doing to dig through file cabinets or print out documents and make copies.What do you think? While it’s not unreasonable for governments to recoup some of these costs, open-ended charging policies can sometimes result in abuse, particularly if a records request might reveal potentially embarrassing information should it be made public.

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RI AG sues Woonsocket for public record access violations

The RI Attorney General's office has filed a complaint in Rhode Island Superior Court citing Woonsocket for "two knowing and willful" violations of the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act (APRA). Each violation carries a maximum $2,000 penalty, according to a release sent this morning from the AG's office.

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Indiana AG: Public should have access to death certificates

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to hear the appeal of a judge’s ruling that cause of death information is not public record. “In short, our office advocates that local death certificates are a public record that the public should be able to obtain,” said Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general.

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Public records key to Ohio high school newspaper's scoop in story about on-campus sexual assault

OHIO — When two high school students walked into their local police station and asked to see a public record, they were given what one of them called “the runaround.” But they stuck it through 'til the end, and that end was a scoop that later ended up on TV and radio stations across Cleveland. One day before that visit, Shaker Heights High School had notified students of an assault inside its Shaker Heights, Ohio, campus. The police report showed the incident was more serious though, something school administrators said they did not know.

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Michigan house bills seek lower FOIA costs

Since 1976 when Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was introduced, several elements of the law have been amended to improve transparency of government actions. Several bills proposed in the House seek to lower costs associated with FOIA requests and establish a method of appealing request denials without going to court. State Rep. Mike Shirkey’s proposal, House Bill 4001, seeks to cap the copy charge imposed for requested documents at 10 cents per copy and require that a government entity not charge a fee for a FOIA requestor making copies with their own equipment during an on-site records inspection authorized by this law.

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Greenville (Mich.) settles FOIA lawsuit with Eureka

GREENVILLE — After about a year of costly legal wrangling, Greenville has finally accepted a settlement agreement with Eureka Township regarding a fee the township attempted to levy against the city for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The Eureka Township Board went into closed session to discuss the proposed settlement at their September meeting. The document presented to Greenville City Council members at Tuesday’s meeting was the settlement the township and its legal advisers came up with.

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