NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for September 13, 2013

September 13, 2013 1:39 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.

Baltimore city open data

image of Access keyData and confidentiality have sparked big stories the past few months. Between Manning and Snowden, there’s been discussion, conspiracy and crime around data that exists and how that data is used. It often seems that the rules under which we must live are shrouded in obscurity. For the average non-law-degreed citizen, specifics on law and governance are hard to find, or had been until now. On July 17th Baltimore became the first city to open its state-level legal information to the public. Essentially, the Baltimore City Charter and Code were liberated through a transition from .pdf to searchable document. The Open Government Foundation (OGF) leads this initiative. OGF implemented The State Decoded, a non-partisan open source project built under the premise of free, friendly, and accessible rule.

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Iowa open meetings lawsuit details council actions

The city of Clinton’s alleged violations of the Open Meetings and Open Records laws leading up to the $4.5 million EMS settlement were detailed in a motion filed by the Citizens for Open Government this week. Members of CFOG are asking a Clinton County judge to declare the city of Clinton violated Iowa’s Open Meetings law and Open Records law when the city discussed the 2010 emergency medical services billing settlement it entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice and former firefighter Tim Schultheis, who alleged the city had incorrectly billed routine ambulance calls as urgent to receive higher reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid.

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Washington appeals court throws out $650,000 records ruling against DSHS

A state appeals court has thrown out one of the largest Public Records Act penalties ever, ruling an abuse victim was not clear enough in her records requests to justify punishing the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The ruling, issued Tuesday, could erase a penalty of nearly $650,000. But an appeal to the state Supreme Court is likely.

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Ohio counties, cities failing to obey public-records law, Yost says

Ohio’s local governments need to pick up their game when it comes to keeping the people’s records and fulfilling public-records requests, state Auditor Dave Yost says. A sampling of 20 counties and cities for compliance with Sunshine laws found weaknesses in the public-records policies and procedures in eight, or 40 percent, according to results to be released by the auditor’s office today.

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Opinion: Love Hawaii schools? Open the Department of Education's books

The Hawaii Department of Education failed a transparency test in a recent national study. Transparency and accountability are keys to open government and ultimately real education reform. In general, my liberal friends want more money spent on schools and my conservative friends want transparency and accountability. The debate over how to fix our public system will continue.

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California lawmakers put open-government measure on ballot

California voters will get a chance next year to change the state constitution to make sure local government agencies provide open access to public records and meetings. The state Assembly on Tuesday provided final legislative approval of state constitutional Amendment 3, which does not require action by the governor to be placed on the June 2014 ballot.

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Newly released public records from Northeast Florida Public Defender Matt Shirk show an office in crisis

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Public records released today offer a glimpse into the tensions inside the Public Defender's Office in the wake of critical news reports, allegations of wrongdoing and the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the matter. Hundreds of pages of emails, text messages and personnel files were released today. The records include heated exchanges between Public Defender Matt Shirk and one of his former employees and friends, investigator Alton Kelly.

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Arkansas FOIA Road Show clarifies law for many

For many, Arkansas' Freedom of Information Act is a law that only reporters and others who need access to public records need to know about. But many people, each year, find the need to use FOIA to obtain public records, and frequent changes in the law creates a need for people to know about the changes and how to use the FOIA. The Arkansas Press Association, working with the Arkansas Attorney General's office host a FOIA Roadshow, going to several cities to familiarize seekers and keepers of public documents of changes and their rights under the law.

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Editorial: Keep access to Wisconsin court records

Scarcely a session of the legislature goes by without some politician trotting out a plan to foul up Wisconsin’s exemplary open-records practices. To that end, let us acquaint readers with the opening text of the open records law directly stating the intent as it applies to state government, municipalities, school districts and all units in-between. ... The latest attempt to violate the spirit of that law comes from Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee. He wants to restrict access to certain records contained on Wisconsin’s online court database. The court site is exceedingly popular, drawing 3-5 million page views every day. All the information at the online site clearly is public under the open records law, and the same records are available in paper or electronic form at county courthouses around Wisconsin.

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'Absolutely ridiculous' demand that Davison go through Michigan Freedom of Information request for MDOT information has city leaders fuming

DAVISON, MI – Leaders in Davison say it's ridiculous the city had to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the Michigan Department of Transportation to find out why the state agency denied a request for a left-turn arrow at a busy intersection. MDOT told the city to file a FOIA request for a traffic survey, crash data and Synchro analysis measuring traffic congestion. The city had received a letter with a summary letter of a study the at M-15 and Flint Street intersection on the northern end of the city.

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3 Seymour police commissioners violated Conn. FOI law, panel rules

The state Freedom of Information Commission on Wednesday made a final ruling that three Seymour police commissioners “violated” the rules of an executive session last year when they allowed the police chief and lieutenant to sit in during interviews longer than necessary. The commission met Wednesday afternoon, and upheld a preliminary ruling made last month by FOI hearing officer Valicia Harmon.

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