State FOIA Friday for August 2, 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.

Maine CDC official resigns over public records flap

The Maine Center for Disease Control official who complained that she was ordered to shred public documents resigned Wednesday, saying her job had become intolerable since she refused to destroy the documents. Sharon Leahy-Lind, director of the CDC's Division of Local Public Health, filed a discrimination complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in April, saying her bosses harassed and assaulted her after she refused to destroy the scoring results related to competitive awards of funding for 27 Healthy Maine Partnerships.


Privacy task force created after Newtown shooting begins work

Two months after Connecticut's legislature rushed to conceal materials from the December school shooting in Newtown, a state task force took the first steps Thursday toward weighing whether state law can be changed to better balance crime victims' privacy and the public's right to access records related to grisly crimes. In part to quell criticism from advocates for government transparency, the law blocking the release of records from the shooting included a provision to create a diverse 17-member panel, appointed by various officials and groups, to grapple with a thorny issue for which there was little time in the frenzied final days of the legislative session.


Public records flow slowly for San Diego mayor

He campaigned on a platform of transparency and openness, but Mayor Bob Filner’s City Hall has been slow to release public records, which can take weeks or even months to see the light of day. The administration says it’s working as fast as it can amid a high volume of requests, as a nationally infamous sexual harassment scandal envelops the 11th floor.


Iowa state law gives governor option to release records

Here we go again. A state government official is claiming that he can’t release documents that are clearly in the public’s interest because they involve a “personnel matter.” … Iowa Code Section 22.7 only sets forth exemptions under which a lawful custodian of a public record may keep a record or information secret. By no means does the law require officials to keep the information quiet. In fact, the law gives the proper custodian of the record (in this case, the Department of Public Safety) discretion as to whether the public interest would be best served by releasing the information. So the governor could order its release.


Oregon state Court of Appeals rules Department of Licensing owes penalties in public records case

The state Court of Appeals has ruled that the state Department of Licensing wrongfully withheld records from a prison inmate in 2009 and should pay penalties to the man for its violation of the Public Records Act. The court on Tuesday ordered the case sparked by Derek Gronquist's request be sent back to Thurston County Superior Court for imposition of unspecified fines of up to $100 per day. Gronquist had requested the business license application filed for Maureen's House Cleaning, a business, in 2009, when he was a prisoner in Monroe.


Dewey (Delaware) officials cleared in FIOA complaint

DEWEY BEACH — The Delaware Deputy Attorney General cleared Dewey Mayor Diane Hanson and other members of the town of Dewey Beach government of accusations alleging they violated open meeting requirements. Georgia Leonhart, a freelance writer for the online publication, Dewey Beach News, filed a complaint under the Delaware Freedom of Information Act on June 11. In her complaint, Leonhart alleged that Hanson, Dewey Beach commissioners, Quality of Life Chairman Gary Keith and the town of Dewey Beach did not follow open meeting requirements in the process of changing the noise violation laws in Dewey Beach.


Grand Rapids charity bin ban on private property spurred by a few documented complaints

GRAND RAPIDS — The ban on recycling bins on private property here appears to be the work of a handful of individuals, including an employee from a thrift shop that benefits from the ban, according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. Using the FOIA law, Michigan Capitol Confidential requested emails, written correspondence and phone logs of all recycling bin complaints in the city of Grand Rapids over the past year.


Supervisors pursue change in Virginia FOIA

The Hanover Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution urging its legislative team to seek amendments to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. Current regulations governing local elected officials require that when more than two gather to discuss public business, a public meeting must be advertised.


Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said her organization opposes the proposed changes. “The argument is usually that government can’t act as efficiently as possible, and that efficient government is in the public’s best interest. But, to me, efficient government is worthless if that government is not also open, accountable and transparent,” Rhyne said.