NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for November 30, 2012

State FOIA Friday News 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:

Gov. Rick Scott's 'Sunburst' email project frustrates advocates of open government

TALLAHASSEE — Bad news and controversy are routine in the vast state government under Florida Gov. Rick Scott's control. But don't look for clues in Project Sunburst, Scott's program for email transparency. That's because Scott doesn't use email as a primary form of communication, and neither does his top aide, chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth. … "It's been a disappointment, to say the least," said Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, who had high hopes because the search for email from Scott's office had been costly and time-consuming.

Visit Tampa Bay Times for the rest.

Bob Hoemeke dies: media lawyer who fought for free speech and open government

When late-night TV comedians ridicule politicians, they can thank Bob Hoemeke for having the freedom to tell their jokes without being hauled into court. Mr. Hoemeke, who died this week at age 77, was a lawyer specializing in open government and the First Amendment. His case establishing that jokes and ridicule aren’t libelous has remained the legal standard nationwide for nearly half a century.

Visit for the rest.

Justices hear arguments over Ark. FOI law ruling

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Supreme Court justice signaled Thursday that the court may overturn a judge's ruling that declared part of the state open records act unconstitutional during a hearing in which lawyers wrangled over the legal definition of a meeting. Attorneys focused primarily on what constitutes a public meeting as justices heard oral arguments over a Sebastian County judge's ruling declaring part of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act vague. The judge last year rejected a claim that Fort Smith's former city administrator violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by talking privately with members of the board of directors.

Visit for the rest.

Sick-time group presses Orange County (Fl.) leaders for phone records

The group behind a sick-time ballot referendum pressed Orange County leaders in court Thursday to turn over their cellphones to retrieve text messages they deleted from lobbyists and others opposed to the measure. Citizens for a Greater Orange County, which sued the county last month, wants commissioners' personal and public phones secured so that any public records still contained on them are not lost.

Visit Orlando Sentinel for the rest.

TX: Government contractors resist public records law with lawsuits

AUSTIN — People who work for your government and deal with your government would rather you didn’t know so much about your government. And they would like the law to reflect that view. Don’t take our word for it. As many as half of the lawsuits filed with the Attorney General’s office come from government contractors who want to skirt the Texas Public Information Act, Amanda Crawford, the assistant attorney general for open records, told a Senate Committee on Open Government hearing Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Visit Watchdog News for the rest.

Lawmakers to review Texas Public Information Act

Lawmakers are considering possible changes to the Texas Public Information Act. They are looking at how to reduce frivolous requests and whether the act hurts government contractors. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst wants the Senate Open Government Committee to examine possible changes when the legislature meets next year.

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Knox County (Ill.) gets failing grade on transparency and access to public records

GALESBURG — Knox County is one of a slew of Western Illinois governments that have received poor marks in online transparency, receiving a failing grade from a study that looked at how much public data is available on county websites. It is an issue, county officials say, that is already being addressed and will be remedied soon. Accord to a Illinois Policy Institute study, Knox County’s website received a rating of 20 out of a maximum 100, and fared particularly worse in sharing public records and budgets. That score is on par with many other western Illinois counties, of which only one — Macoupin — received a passing grade.

Visit The Register-Mail for the rest.