NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for August 30, 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.

Battle Ground (Wash.) school board violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act, expert claims

image of Access keyBattle Ground school board members violated the state's Open Public Meetings Act when they voted behind closed doors in executive session to spend $400,000 to buy out the contract of the district superintendent, said one of the state's top advocates for open government. "If they voted in a secret meeting to spend $400,000 and didn't bring it to a public vote, that's completely illegal," said Toby Nixon, president of Washington Coalition for Open Government. "If the vote was held behind closed doors in executive session, whether it was part of a regular meeting or a special meeting, then under the Open Public Meetings Act, that action is null and void," he said.


San Mateo County debuts records database

In a gesture of transparency, county officials earlier this month debuted the Open Data Portal, a new online listing of arcane spreadsheets and miscellaneous public information. The data might seem scattershot right now, but San Mateo County officials say it’s just the start of what they believe will revolutionize local public records. County Supervisors Dave Pine and Warren Slocum championed committing $460,000 in Measure A sales tax money to fund the new database over the next two years with the goal to to push any and all public information onto the site. The site is expected to grow exponentially as a warehouse for all county records for public perusal. Pine described it as a “living and evolving” project. “My bias is: the more data, the better,” he said.


Florida governor appoints special prosecutor to investigate public defender's office

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed the state attorney for the Gainesville area Thursday to investigate allegations about the deletion of public records and questionable behavior in the office of Public Defender Matt Shirk reported this week in the Times-Union. . . . In the order appointing Cervone, Scott assigned him to investigate the Public Defender’s Office for “potential prosecution and all matters related to allegations of public records laws violations and any related misconduct.”


Hanover County (Va.) supervisors want state agency to review Va.’s open meeting rules

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in July asking the Virginia General Assembly to change open government regulations to allow larger groups of locally elected officials to meet behind closed doors without notifying the public. “While there was some initial adverse reaction to this, it might be better if there was a calm, deliberate study of this over the course of the next year by the (Freedom of Information Act) Advisory Council, at which point they’ll make a recommendation to members of the General Assembly,” said Hanover County Attorney Sterling E. Rives III.


Eagan appointed chair of state Connecticut FOI commission

A lawyer and former deputy mayor of West Hartford has been chosen to serve as chairman of Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission. The appointment of Owen Eagan was announced Tuesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Eagan is a partner with the firm Eagan, Donohue, Van Dyke & Falsey and a former town councilor and deputy mayor in West Hartford.


Release of L.A. teachers' performance ratings delayed by judge

. . . [T]he teachers union argued that "immediate release of the scores will cause irreparable harm to privacy rights, and that harm dramatically outweighs any prejudice or inconvenience that might be caused by a brief delay in public release of the records" pending the appeal. The Times had opposed a delay, arguing that the Legislature had severely restricted agencies from using appeals as a delaying tactic to keep public records secret. The Public Records Act bars courts from ordering delays unless those fighting disclosure have a probable chance of success and would suffer "irreparable damage" by the release of documents before the case was settled.


Orange County Health Care Agency wants $54,371 to produce email records

Orange County’s Health Care Agency (HCA) wants to charge $54,371 for a response to a Voice of OC public records request to review emails from the last six months of 2012 – a whopping $338.14 for each day of emails reviewed. The request asks for electronic copies of any emails referencing the names of six different drugs, exchanged between Dr. Clayton Chau, a former psychiatrist at the agency, and members of its formulary committee, which routinely evaluates the master list of approved medications, between 2007 and 2012. . . . Voice of OC has requested a breakdown of this cost estimate. The California Public Records Act, established in 1968, does not allow government entities to charge fees for inspecting records or the cost to search, review and delete information. They can, however, charge for the cost of copies and for data compilation and extraction of information from electronic records.


Court rules Atlantic City marketing arm not subject to public scrutiny

An advocate of open government has lost a lawsuit that sought to have Atlantic City’s casino-funded marketing coalition declared a public agency. John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project, claimed that the Atlantic City Alliance is actually an arm of government and should have to disclose its records to the public. But a New Jersey appeals court ruled Tuesday that the ACA is the “private” part of a public-private partnership between the state and the casino industry to help revive Atlantic City’s tourism.