NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for July 5, 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.

N.D. government should be open

North Dakota’s open meeting law does not appear to be working. In the past year, there have been violations at nearly every level of government. And astonishingly, there have been repeat offenders. All elected officials do not take the public’s right to know seriously. Even after being chided by the North Dakota attorney general. Chided — because there are no teeth in the law. No punishment or consequences beyond sitting through a workshop or class on open meetings and open records.


California Senate approves public records amendment

The state Senate approved a constitutional amendment Wednesday that would guarantee the public's right to inspect local government public records while shifting the cost away from the state budget. The proposed amendment would end a requirement that the state reimburse local governments for their costs of complying with the California Public Records Act. The amendment, SCA3, passed on a 37-0 vote and goes to the Assembly. If it receives the required two-thirds majority support in that house, as expected, the amendment would go before voters in June 2014.


Town in Washington state must pay $538,555 in public records suit over e-mail metadata

A town in Washington state must pay more than half a million dollars to resolve a seven-year lawsuit that brought electronic metadata within the scope of the state public records law, a trial court ruled last week. The City of Shoreline will have to reimburse $438,555 to cover the plaintiffs' costs as Washington agencies are required to cover reasonable attorneys fees for their opponents after losing open records lawsuits. Shoreline also agreed last year to pay a $100,000 statutory penalty after the court found that the city violated the state public records act.


Arkansas Secretary of State hit with FOIA lawsuit

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin could soon be defending himself in front of a judge after liberal blogger and lawyer Matt Campbell filed suit against the Republican [July 1] for failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. The suit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, seeks to force Martin's office to turn over documents Campbell, managing editor of the Blue Hog Report, had asked for in a June 10 FOIA request. The request was for files attached to e-mails Campbell had received from an earlier FOIA request on June 2.


Illinois Appellate Court tells city: Cough up public records

For two years, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been fighting to keep the public from seeing a public document on the use of taxpayer resources. … the issue goes well beyond a single obscure—and, by this time, potentially outdated—document from 2010. On Friday the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the city was required to disclose the report—and in doing so, the court appears to have strengthened the state's Freedom of Information Act in favor of openness for citizens and the press.


Don't exempt UW-Madison from records law

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has requested that the state Legislature grant it an exemption from Wisconsin's Open Records Law. The proposed legislation, if passed, would limit public access to university records and diminish independent scrutiny of the state's flagship university. In pursuit of this exemption, UW-Madison officials have circulated proposed language, initially to a list of Republican-only legislators. … The proposed legislation, which the UW initially wanted added to the state budget bill, is overly broad. If passed, it would inevitably lead to abuse.


Groups urge Maine Supreme Court to keep 911 call records open

The transcripts from calls to Maine’s 911 Emergency Communications Bureau are public records and should remain accessible to the public, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and five media organizations argued in a brief to the Maine Supreme Court. The friend-of-the-court brief supports an effort by Maine Today Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, to reverse a move by the state to deny access to 911 call records in a murder case by declaring them part of an investigative file. The trial court agreed that releasing the transcripts could affect trial testimony.


Vermont SOS announces Vt. State Archives opens state hospital records

Secretary of State Jim Condos announced today that more than forty cubic feet of records from the Vermont State Hospital are now open for research at the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration (VSARA). The records, some of which have been preserved by hospital staff for over a century, were transferred to the State Archives in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.


Open government foundation hiring raises hackles

The hiring of an outspoken advocate for a liberal political organization as the new executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG) has generated criticism from the political right but Terry Schleder says, “Conservatives have nothing to worry about.” A 49-year-old who will step down as the field director for the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans, Schleder was named the to job last Thursday (June 27) by the NMFOG board of directors of the organization whose slogan is, “Your Government. Your Money. Your Right to Know.”