NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for October 25, 2013

October 25, 2013 2:43 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.

OU student sues school over refusal to release parking-ticket records

image of Access keyWhat started out as a curiosity about whether certain students received favorable treatment on parking tickets has evolved into a legal battle pitting the state Open Records Act against federal privacy law concerns and a student against the university he attends. Joey Stipek sued the University of Oklahoma earlier this year after administration officials refused to make public an electronic database the school maintained of parking tickets issued by its personnel.

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Kohr's Frozen Custard failed electrical inspection before boardwalk fire (N.J.)

The candy business seated above the wiring and electrical equipment that sparked a massive boardwalk fire last month passed its electrical inspection after superstorm Sandy, but the adjoining custard shop did not, a NJ Press Media investigation found. Biscayne Candies earned approval from a state electrical inspector in May to have its power restored before opening for the summer, according to records in the borough’s building department.

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Treehouse dispute spurs Florida Sunshine Law investigation

The State Attorney's Office has asked Bradenton Police to investigate a possible Sunshine Law violation by City of Holmes Beach officials. ... Attorneys for Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran, who own a controversial treehouse in Holmes Beach, sent a letter to State Attorney Ed Brodsky on Sept. 5, alleging that the Holmes Beach city commission violated the Sunshine Law on Aug. 29 when they met with their city attorneys to discuss the treehouse case.

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Wisconsin court rejects state's argument that media shouldn't intervene in 'John Doe' case

The Court of Appeals is rejecting the state's argument that media companies and First Amendment advocates should not be allowed to intervene in a criminal appeal of one of Scott Walker's former aides. In an order filed Wednesday, Judge Patricia Curley wrote that there's no indication the state is pushing for the unsealing of certain records in the case, which is what media companies want in the case.

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Editorial: Delaware Chancery Court process should be open to public

Delawareans are proud of the state’s court system. They recognize that Delaware’s courts not only serve the public in criminal and civil matters. They also play a powerful role in the state’s economy. That is particularly true of Delaware’s Chancery Court. It has a national reputation for depth, sophistication and impartiality. Not only that, many of Chancery’s business-vs.-business cases bring in revenue for the state. Important as that is, we must remember that Chancery is part of the state’s legal system and is therefore accountable to the public.

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Indiana Board of Education member asking court to dismiss Glenda Ritz's lawsuit

Another day, another round of contention in the power struggle between the state’s voter-elected superintendent and the governor-appointed board of education. One day after Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz sued the board, contending that members were operating in secret without her knowledge, a board member said Wednesday his attorney was filing a motion to dismiss her suit. The state’s attorney general also weighed in, saying he hoped to help resolve the matter without going to court.

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Secrecy surrounds fraud allegations in New Mexico mental health audit

In June, New Mexico’s Behavioral Health care system was thrown into chaos — the state abruptly froze Medicaid payments to more than a dozen mental health providers in the state after an audit allegedly found widespread fraud. Those providers served nearly 30,000 patients, but neither the public nor those accused have been able to see the actual audit because the state says an investigation continues.

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Editorial: Open records law should apply to Penn State, other taxpayer-supported institutions

There was a curious moment — or a series of curious moments — during Monday’s state Senate committee hearing on proposed changes to the state’s open records law as it pertains to Penn State and the commonwealth’s three other state-related universities. Lawyers for Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln argued that the universities -- supported by state taxpayers, but not considered state schools -- should be exempt from aspects of the open records law because they are not state agencies and do not enjoy the state’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits.

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Proposal would allow Florida universities to withhold names of candidates for top jobs

Those seeking jobs as provost, dean or president at one of Florida’s public universities could receive public records protection over their names and work history being released to the public under a law proposed by state Rep. Dave Kerner. Under the measure, universities could withhold names and resume information on job candidates seeking key executive posts, similar to the practice in states including like Pennsylvania, Delaware and Michigan, which have far weaker public records provisions than Florida.

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Penn State record access debated

HARRISBURG - Fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child abuse sex scandal put higher education officials on the defensive Monday as they fought to keep their academic exemption under the state open records law. The exemption for Penn State University and three other state-related universities has existed since the law's enactment in 2009. Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, and others have proposed ending it as part of an open records law rewrite.

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South Dakota newspaper presses FOIA fight for food stamp payment data

South Dakota's Argus Leader newspaper urged a federal appeals court Wednesday to reverse a ruling blocking the newspaper from receiving data on how much the federal government pays to stores that redeeem food stamp benefits. Jon Arneson, an attorney for the newspaper, told a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit that a lower court judge misinterpreted the law by ruling that a confidentiality provision for retailer applications allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withhold all data on payments to those retailers. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper requested the data on annual payments to each retailer approved to take part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

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Open records at issue in Detroit conference

Detroit— Last year, Wayne County informed reporters that it would cost some $1.8 million if they wanted months of emails from Executive Robert Ficano and three former aides. The explanation: The county’s computer network would need to be backed up to retrieve a single email and lawyers would need to spend 66,000 hours — about 7 1/2 years working around the clock — reviewing all the data.

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