NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for October 19, 2012

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:

Records reveal Boston police spy on political and peace groups

BOSTON — October 18, 2012. Boston Police routinely spy on ordinary citizens engaged in peaceful, First Amendment-protected activity, creating criminal "intelligence reports" on lawful political activity of peace groups and local leaders, according to public records and surveillance video released today by the National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts Chapter and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

Boston Police officers make video recordings of peaceful demonstrations and track activists as well as the internal workings of political groups–even when there is no indication of criminal activity or a threat to public safety. The documents reveal that officers assigned to the BPD's regional domestic spying center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), file so-called "intelligence reports" mischaracterizing peaceful groups such as Veterans for Peace, United for Justice with Peace and CodePink as "extremists," and peaceful protests as domestic "homeland security" threats and civil disturbances. These searchable records are retained for years, in violation of federal regulations, and were turned over to the ACLU and NLG only after they sued for access on behalf of local peace groups and activists.

Visit ENews Park Forest for the rest.

Email privacy: Court ruling offers workable approach

The Alaska Supreme Court seems to have taken a reasonable approach to the difficult issues raised by the use of private email accounts by state employees to communicate about state business. … The state administration, for the moment, requires employees to copy all emails having to do with state business to the state email system. Theoretically, everything is captured for later review, if necessary. Of course, in the real world, that might not always happen. So it’s good that the court affirmed that communications found solely in private email accounts are not necessarily protected from the public eye.

Visit Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for the rest.

UConn denies it has copy of deal with Webster Bank

STORRS, Conn. — The University of Connecticut says it doesn't have a copy of the multi-million dollar contract that makes Webster Bank a major marketing partner of the school. UConn announced in July that Webster had become a major "multi-media partner" and said the marketing deal would "encompasses all aspects of the university." Among other things, the deal calls for the bank and the school names to appear together in media campaigns and on signs at sports venues.

Visit Norwich Bulletin for the rest.

Los Angeles Times claims school district is violating public records law

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles Times claims Los Angeles Unified School District is violating public records law by refusing to release records tying teachers, by name, to the expected and actual test scores of their students. The Times asked a Superior Court judge to order LAUSD to deliver the records the newspaper requested under California Public Records Act.

Visit Courthouse News Service for the rest.

Officials must respect open government

Too many officials in the city have too little respect for open government. It's a complaint we've made about many, including leaders of the Board of Representatives and the WPCA, and now we're back at the Board of Education where board President Polly Rauh again has worked to keep public business away from the public's eyes.

Visit Stamford Advocate for the rest.

Price FOIA amendment would expand exceptions to public records law

Lansing, Mich. — State Rep. Amanda Price was disturbed by the type of data available to the public, she said. An amendment she proposed to the Freedom of Information Act would close the door on disputes such as one in Park Township over what information is available when a person takes out building permits.

Visit The Holland Sentinel for the rest.

Houston No. 13 in Texas for attempts to deny public records

Among the 20 largest cities in Texas, Houston ranks No. 13 for asking Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to keep government information a secret, the Texas Tribune reports. Data from the Center for Public Integrity shows Houston made 882 submissions to Abbott last year to withhold information sought by citizens under the Texas Public Information Act, the Tribune reports. With 41 rulings per 100,000 people, Houston ranks behind a number of smaller cities, including many in the Dallas area.

Visit Houston Business Journal for the rest.

Dallas-area suburbs lead in attempts to deny public records

Among the state’s biggest cities, several sprawling Dallas-area suburbs tallied the highest rate of requests to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott last year to keep government information secret, according to a recent examination by the Center for Public Integrity. The probe examined the number of attempts by the 20 largest Texas cities to block public requests for information in 2011, then looked at how those numbers stacked up for each city, according to the rate of requests per 100,000 population.

Visit Texas Tribune for the rest.

Group protests lack of public hearing for Utah records nominee

There will be no public hearing on Gov. Gary Herbert’s appointment to the State Records Committee of a former legislator and staunch supporter of HB477 — legislation critics say would have stymied public access to government records. Holly Richardson, who also is a conservative blogger, is expected to be confirmed Wednesday by the full state Senate to the records committee that hears appeals on public documents requested through the state Government Records Access and Management Act. … The Alliance for a Better UTAH, a nonprofit progressive organization that unsuccessfully requested a public hearing, scolded the Government Operations Confirmation Committee in a statement Tuesday.

Visit Salt Lake Tribune for the rest.