NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for October 26, 2012

Keyboard key for AccessA 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:

Rhode Island’s most transparent lawmakers

(Oct 26, 2012) – The General Assembly’s commitment to open government and campaign transparency improved significantly during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, but lawmakers still fall behind when it comes to judicial selection and ethics reform, according to the annual Common Cause legislative scorecard released Thursday. The report broke down 28 House votes and 27 Senate votes that focused on campaign finance and election reform, ethics and lobbying reform, judicial selection, open government and separation of powers and scored legislators based on how they voted.

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Ark. AG upholds FOIA denial in request of school superintendent

(Oct 26, 2012) – Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has upheld a decision made by Harrison superintendent Melinda Moss to withhold certain information requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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Dispute in Muskegon: Freedom of Information doesn't always equal free information

Muskegon, MI (Oct 25, 2012) – Does the public’s right to examine public documents include its right to know the cost to do so beforehand? The Education Action Group says “yes,” after filing a Freedom of Information Act request for records from Muskegon Public Schools and receiving a $311.50 bill that is now 90 days past due. … The EAG, which is based in Muskegon, sent FOIA requests to 25 school districts around the nation, including the Grand Rapids and Flint school districts. The request sought credit card statements, check registries, cell phone bills and superintendent expenses for the 2011 calendar year.

Visit for the rest.

Judge hears from lawyers in West Memphis 3 evidence case

MARION, Ark. (KTHV) – Pam Hicks and Mark Byers, both parents of two victims in the 1993 West Memphis murders, were in court Wednesday trying to get a judge to allow them to see evidence from the murders. The lawsuit filed against West Memphis police, prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington, and others is an effort to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to allow the parents to see physical evidence linked to their son's murders.

Visit Today's THV for the rest.

Gov. Bentley rejects Ala. open records request

(Oct 24, 2012) – Gov. Robert Bentley's office says Alabama's open records law doesn't cover budget cut proposals he could have implemented if Alabama voters had rejected the transfer of $437 million to the state General Fund budget. The Decatur Daily filed a public records request asking for correspondence between the governor and his staff or agency heads about possible cuts and about plans for early retirement incentives for public employees.

Visit Alabama Public Radio for the rest.

Deferred prosecution ends Texas open meetings investigation

(Oct 24, 2012) – Travis County Attorney David Escamilla today issued a seven-page press release to announce the results of an investigation that began 21 months ago into the question of whether then-members of the Austin City Council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. … The agreements signed by each elected official affirm long lists of detailed, specific communications among the council members that constitute probable cause. These include specific dates on which a quorum of the council communicated face-to-face, in phone calls, and via e-mail and text messages.

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'Can I ask for that?' Learn about public records and open meetings at 2 St. Paul sessions

(Oct 24, 2012) – A seminar designed to teach members of the public the basics of Minnesota's public records and open meetings laws will be held in St. Paul next month. "Can I ask for that? Government Records and Open Meetings in Minnesota," sponsored by the Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Public Library, features speakers from the Information Policy Analysis Division, the state office that helps members of the public and government agencies with their questions about government records and open meetings.

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FERPA not meant to hide investigations from public, Utah

(Oct 24, 2012) – The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA, was originally intended to ensure only parents and students had access to academic records, such as report cards and transcripts. But in recent years, FERPA has been used to shield documents that would ordinarily be public, such as parking tickets issued to student athletes, meeting minutes, investigations into academic dishonesty in collegiate athletics, and settlements of lawsuits against school districts.

Visit The Salt Lake Tribune for the rest.