National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for July 19, 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.

Toledo mayor refuses to release a police department gang-turf map

In the face of political criticism during a tough election year and despite near-condemnation from a First Amendment expert, Mayor Mike Bell dug in his heels Thursday and refused to release a police department gang-turf map. In a 2-1 decision dated Friday, the 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo had concluded the gang map is not exempt from disclosure under Ohio public-records law and ordered the city to turn it over to The Blade within 10 days.


Oklahoma Corporation Commission to determine phone records privacy on a case-by-case basis

State regulators will determine the confidentiality of telecommunications companies' records on a case-by-case basis in an effort to balance the interests of consumers and of the telecom firms, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission decided Thursday. The three-member commission, which regulates utilities and the oil and gas industry, voted 2-1 to dismiss a proposal to make a general determination about what records would be kept confidential and out of the public's eye while still complying with the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Commissioner Bob Anthony … said that while the law authorizes the quasi-judicial commission to keep trade secrets and certain records confidential, he saw nothing in the law that authorizes commissioners to issue protective orders to keep a company's proprietary information secret.


Arkansas Secretary of State legal action questioned

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by blogger Matt Campbell took a twist this week that could spell trouble for Secretary of State Mark Martin. Campbell filed a lawsuit in June to compel Martin’s office to comply with a document request. Martin’s office supplied some copies of the documents Campbell was seeking, but provided them in PDF format not in the original Word format in the request. Martin, a Republican, and Campbell, who describes his blog as “unabashedly progressive, populist, and liberal” have a long history of antagonism regarding FOIA requests and ensuing spats over information disclosure.


Second Amendment Foundation sues City of Seattle over withheld public records

The Second Amendment Foundation today filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, alleging that the city did not fully comply with a request for documents relating to January’s gun buyback under the Public Records Act. According to SAF Special Projects Director Philip Watson, the foundation asked for all communications and other related documents in February under the PRA, and in return received more than 1,500 electronically reproduced e-mails between five people on Mayor Mike McGinn’s staff. Allegedly missing were other communications, notes and meeting agendas, including an e-mail exchange with, and regarding, Seattle gun rights activist Ralph Fascitelli.


Open meetings, records act seminar slated for Kansas communities

The Kansas Attorney General's Office, Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, Kansas Press Association and Kansas Newspaper Foundation are making stops around the state next week, including one Monday in Garden City, to offer training seminars on the Kansas Open Meetings and Kansas Open Records acts. … KPA participants will be Garden City Telegram Editor-Publisher Dena Sattler, who is the president of the KPA Board of Directors; Brian McCauley, Miami County Republic; Tomari Quinn, editor and director of audience development for the Topeka Capital-Journal; Tim Carpenter, Capital-Journal Statehouse bureau chief; Andrew Nash, Pittsburg Morning Sun managing editor; Sharon Friedlander, Colby Free Press publisher; and KPA Executive Director Doug Anstaett.


Survey finds U.S. counties leading the way with open government, citizen engagement and transparency

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) have announced the 2013 Digital Counties Survey winners. The annual survey recognizes leading examples of counties using technology to improve services and efficiency. Here's a look at the first-place winners.


Willows publisher wins appeal in school district public records case

Tim Crews, a grizzled, hell-raising country publisher, is off the hook for $56,595 he was ordered by a Glenn County judge to pay to attorneys who defended a school district he sued. Contrary to the judge's ruling that the lawsuit was frivolous, three justices of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento found Wednesday that it "lacked merit but was not frivolous." "Consequently, we reverse the award of attorney fees and costs to the district," the appellate panel ruled in a 20-page published opinion. The decision brought the Willows-based Sacramento Valley Mirror back from the brink of extinction. Crews would not have been able to pay the fees, and his newspaper would have folded.


Records request unleashes cross-(Washington)-state criticism

… The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) made “relief from harassing and abusive public records requests” a top priority in Olympia this year, citing claims of prison inmates and others filing requests just to harass officials at great expense to taxpayers. The resulting House Bill 1128 would have allowed agencies to determine on their own whether a specific public records request was indeed just harassment. And it would have allowed them to sue citizens to stop asking. Open government advocates rallied hard to stop it, and did, but expect that the fight is not over. To prepare for it, the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) is asking agencies for records that show just how big a burden records request are. They filed public records requests via email, including one sent to Coulee Dam’s town clerk on July 4.


South Carolina Supreme Court allows radio host's public records lawsuit to proceed

A radio host’s 2009 public records lawsuit will get another look after the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case … The lawsuit stems from a 2009 public records request made by Rocky Disabato seeking documents that showed discussion between the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and then-Gov. Mark Sanford about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as well as telephone records. The association stated it was exempt from the state’s public records law because it is a nonprofit corporation …