May 30, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Daniel Bevarly
(239) 823-1811 · firstname.lastname@example.org
State/Local government FOI audits reveal administrative shortcomings
Charging different fees for the same public record. Refusing to allow residents to use their cell phones to copy records and save money. The absence of online content to provide necessary information to help file a FOI request. These are some of the findings from recent state and local government freedom of information (FOI) audits conducted in Florida, Illinois and Tennessee.
The independent findings from state FOI coalitions and a university disclose an ongoing challenge to government agencies to comply with their state’s open government laws and demonstrate consistent policy practices.
For example, among the key findings from the Florida audit was a lack of comprehensive record keeping across agencies that did not or could not provide an estimate of the amount of public records requests their agency acquired or could not provide data on the amount of money their agency collected in FOI fees.
While many of the sampled counties in the Illinois audit scored high in delivering petitioned public records, the agencies performed poorly in the more mundane elements of open records compliance including posting instructions for petitioners, or a FOI contact person.
In the Tennessee audit, researchers noted a “locked-down culture” existing in many agencies that, even with a newly-enacted state statute to improve public records policies, created new hurdles for residents with increasing layers of bureaucracy and rules, including having to show an ID, some of which may conflict with state law.
“Responding to public record requests is a service provided by government; just like issuing permits and licenses,” said Daniel Bevarly, NFOIC executive director. “Missing or unaccounted for data about daily administrative procedures –key performance measurements for any organization-- suggest the need to strengthen those policies.”
Record fee charges demonstrated another example of inconsistencies. While one Florida county approved one-sixth the number of requests for information that another county did, it still collected three times the amount of fees.
To learn more about the audits, please download the reports and contact the authors in each state.
- Florida – Florida First Amendment Foundation. Contact Barbara Petersen, email@example.com
- Illinois – Bradley University. Contact Dr. A. Jay Wagner firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tennessee – Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. Contact: Deborah Fisher, email@example.com