State FOIA Friday for August 16, 2013

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.

Indy district seeks records on takeover of schools

Indianapolis Public Schools leaders filed a public records request Thursday seeking information on the 2011 takeover of four schools amid questions about the integrity of the state's A-F school grading formula. IPS Board of Commissioners President Diane Arnold called for a review of the decisions that led the state to give control of the schools to charter operators after they were consistently found to be "failing." … The grading system has been under fire since The Associated Press published emails last month showing former schools chief Tony Bennett oversaw changes to the formula to ensure a top Republican donor's school received an 'A'. Bennett subsequently resigned as Florida's education commissioner.


Wyoming schools superintendent questions state's response time in public records request

The first few thousand state email correspondences requested last month by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill were released from Gov. Matt Mead’s office earlier this week. Hill and her attorney argue the response from the state — which estimated fulfilling Hill's public records request would take months and require combing through some 80,000 documents — has been sluggish.

Also see: Cindy Hill narrows public records request


Editorial: FOIA records price reflects poorly on Hilton Head Island

Little seems reasonable about Hilton Head Island’s bill of up to $13,000 to produce public documents. That’s the cost estimate put on a documents request from island businessman Skip Hoagland, who is suing the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. The documents sought are related to the accommodations tax money the town gives the chamber. Town officials say they’re trying to cover the cost of fulfilling the request, which they say will require multiple staffers to sift through thousands of documents in several databases and archives.


Slashing the cost of FOIA requests in Michigan

State lawmakers could be taking up a bill that would make getting information easier from public entities. House Bill 4001 limits the costs a public body can charge when someone files a request for public records under the Freedom of Information Act. “Costs associated with FOIA had grown to the point they had become a barrier to information the public was otherwise supposed to ordinarily have,” said the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, in a statement. “If you can’t afford to get it, you obviously can’t read it…"


Court sides mostly with University of Illinois Springfield in FOIA dispute

A state appellate court has upheld the majority of a circuit court ruling that limits the disclosure of documents relating to the resignations of former University of Illinois Springfield coaches and a $200,000 settlement with a student-athlete in 2009. The 4th District Appellate Court found that all but a few documents withheld by UIS, including witness statements about an incident during a spring 2009 softball trip to Florida, were exempt from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. … Last fall, Jersey County Circuit Judge Eric Pistorius, who was appointed to hear the case in Sangamon County, ordered the release of 12 pages of documents, while ruling that other documents he had reviewed were protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or were used in a deliberative process and therefore exempt from FOIA disclosure.


Judge orders WVU Urgent Care to comply with FOIA request

MORGANTOWN – A Monongalia County judge has ruled that West Virginia University Medical Corporation is a public body and must respond to a Freedom of Information Act request. Monongalia Circuit Court Judge Phillip D. Gaujot made his ruling Aug. 6 in Monongalia County General Hospital’s lawsuit against WVU Medical Corporation, doing business as University Health Associates. A year ago, Mon General Hospital submitted a FOIA request to WVUMC, seeking documents related to WVUMC’s relocation of its urgent care center to Suncrest Towne Centre. … WVUMC is a nonprofit that supports the clinical practice of physicians employed by the WVU School of Medicine. It denied Mon General’s FOIA request on Aug. 24.


Exploring official corruption, records in New Mexico

New Mexico has had its share of government corruption scandals in recent years. Former state Treasurers Michael Montoya and Robert Vigil and former state Senate Democratic leader Manny Aragon are among those who have been convicted and sent to prison. The scandals have helped contribute to a perception by New Mexicans that government here is among the most corrupt in the nation. The 2013 Garrity Perception Survey of New Mexicans found that state officials are among the least trusted people, even less trusted than lawyers and journalists. A new study suggests that the effective use of the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act may also be contributing to the public perception of a high level of government corruption in New Mexico.


NY Safe Act requires Onondaga County to release many pistol permit holders' names, state official says

The same law that lets pistol permit holders keep their names private might also require Onondaga County to make public the names of up to 40,000 permit holders. Robert Freeman, the state's top open government official, said today a provision of the NY Safe Act adopted in January would require the county to release the names of permit holders who have not filed forms asking for privacy. Sheriff Kevin Walsh said the county has 40,000 to 50,000 pistol permit holders. About 10,000 of those have filed papers asking that their names not be made public, he said.