FOI Audits

The first FOI audit we’ve a record of was conducted by the Oakland Tribune and the First Amendment Project in 1992 to test how well 30 Bay Area agencies were complying with the California Public Records Act.

In 1997, university students in Rhode Island surveyed agencies’ compliance with the state Open Records Law in 39 cities and towns in the state. This audit was followed up in 1998 and 1999 with police departments, municipal legal claims and school districts.

Nineteen ninety-eight brought the Indiana audits “Open Records, Open Doors,” which set the model for state audits, and in 1999 the Gannett New Jersey Newspaper Group audited the state’s Right to Know law.

FOI audits have continued into the 21st Century with no signs of abatement. Audits have led to legislative reforms and the establishment of ombudsman positions to represent the public’s interests.

Yet much remains to be done.

Recent Additions

D.C. government agencies: Kinda open, kinda not

It’s been almost two years since the D.C. Open Meetings Act took effect, instituting new requirements that all city bodies and agencies had to follow to ensure that the public had as much access to their work as possible. But how well are those agencies doing in complying with the law?

Not very, according to an audit of 27 public bodies conducted by the D.C. Open Government Coalition and released yesterday during a summit on transparency in government. The coalition found that only one of the bodies it looked at—the Historic Preservation Review Board—complied fully with the provisions of the law mandating notice for meetings, advance agendas, and posted minutes and other records of the meetings.

For more information, see related article here and find the survey here.


UL students uncover ‘horror story’ through Sunshine Week survey

How well do local government agencies comply with Louisiana’s open government laws? To find out, The Daily Advertiser conducted a survey with help from the students in Dr. Robert Buckman’s public affairs reporting class at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The survey is being published during Sunshine Week, a weeklong national initiative by the American Society of News Editors to draw attention to open government laws and freedom of information issues.

For more information, see the project here.


Sunshine Week audit shows public record delays common

The Associated Press and newspapers throughout the state, including The Daytona Beach News-Journal, visited every county’s clerk of court office in recent weeks to see whether each is complying with the law and how much of a delay it is causing in the release of information.

The project, under the direction of the Florida Society of News Editors, was done in conjunction with this year’s Sunshine Week, an annual initiative starting Sunday to promote greater transparency in government. In order to test the effect of the new requirement, representatives from 31 news organizations requested to view the hard copies of two civil cases and two criminal cases in all 67 counties. The criminal cases were generally a week old and 6 months old, as were the civil cases. Requests for 268 records were made.

For more information, see the project here.


Federal FOIA Audits

Outdated Agency Regs Undermine Freedom of Information

A government-wide Freedom of Information Act audit by the National Security Archive has found that sixty-two out of ninety-nine government agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since US Attorney General Eric Holder issued his March 19, 2009 FOIA memorandum to all heads of executive departments instructing them to make discretionary FOIA releases of documents that might be technically exempt from release (especially with respect to the “deliberative” b(5) exemption), to proactively post records of interest to the public, and to remove “unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.”

For more information, see the project here.


A status report on FOIAonline

As you may know, has been running a project that chronicles the experience of using FOIAonline as compared with other agencies’ processing systems. offered a range of grades for FOIAonline and other agencies during a panel at “Transparency in the Obama Administration: A Fourth Year Assessment.”

For more information, see the project here.


Managing FOIA: early observations on FOIAOnline

About a month ago, launched Managing, a blog to chronicle its experience with the FOIA process at several agencies. In particular, is interested in comparing how the process worked at agencies participating in FOIAOnline. The organization has received surprising responses from agencies that are both participating and not participating in FOIAOnline.

Read more about the project.


Transparency in the Obama Administration

A new Congressional Research Service report on government transparency and secrecy has been published by the Federation of American Scientists. The Collaboration on Government Secrecy also released the Obama Administration Secrecy/Transparency Scorecard, and will host a FOIA Community Conference, “Transparency in the Obama Administration— A Fourth-Year Assessment.”

See the wrap-up page here.


Google transparency report reveals government surveillance on the rise

This is the sixth time the Google company released data for its Transparency Report about about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web. One trend has become clear: Government surveillance is on the rise. In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.

See here for more information about the audit.


Secrecy Report Card for 2010

While most of the audits and surveys here are in regard to state FOI laws, we’d like to add a recent audit conducted at the federal level.

The 2010 Secrecy Report Card, from has been released, and the results are not pretty.

The first Secrecy Report Card was published in 2004, the year of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and the third year of the Bush-Cheney Administration. Over the course of the last five years, the reports charted a significant increase in secrecy and a concomitant decrease in accountability.  According to Patrice McDermott, Director of, “The 2008 elections were largely seen as a referendum on the extreme secrecy of the last Administration. On his first full day in office, President Obama pledged his Administration would be the most open, transparent and accountable in history. The Secrecy Report Card helps the public monitor the progress, or lack thereof, the President makes toward that goal.”

For more information, follow the links below to the site:


State Integrity Investigation

The State Integrity Investigation is an unprecedented, data-driven analysis of transparency and accountability in all 50 state governments. The Center has partnered with Global Integrity and Public Radio International to assign each state a letter grade — based on 300 government integrity indicators. No state received an A, and eight states failed.

More about the project.


Open Government Plans Audit

The project was launched with an audit of the Open Government Plans agencies were required to develop by April 7, 2010, under the Open Government Directive (OGD). When the initial results were released, the coalition announced the contributors would re-evaluate any plans updated by June 2010. The contributors also are working with a consortium of academic institutions and others to develop a metric to evaluate if agencies are making real progress in openness, participation, and collaboration.

See the Final Updated Rankings here.


Canada FOIA Audits

Review of Free Expression in Canada

Review of Free Expression in Canada 2010/2011 — CJFE’s second annual Review of Free Expression in Canada looks at the important free expression issues affecting Canadians. The report covers topics including Wikileaks, access to information, the G20 Summit violations, Hate speech and a special 30th Anniversary article about CJFE’s history. You can also read CJFE’s report card for the government including grades from A- to F-.

Federal Performance Poor in Freedom of Information Audit

TORONTO– May 12, 2010 – Want to know how much British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation spent on cell phones recently? That information will cost you $98,603.

That was one of the findings in the 2009-2010 National Freedom of Information Audit, released by the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA). The annual exercise tests how readily officials disclose information that should be publicly available on request.

Canada’s Police among Worst Offenders for Freedom of Information Compliance

Many Canadian police forces obstinately refuse to report on taser stun gun usage, despite an apology from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott last year for excessive secrecy, and mounting public controversy surrounding the deaths of taser victims.

This is among the findings of a new audit by the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA) of freedom of information regimes across Canada, released today. The annual exercise tests how readily officials disclose information that should be publicly available on request.

From the Canadian Newspaper Association (all links to CNA site):



If your news organization or study group is investigating open records, let us know when the research and writing is completed; likewise, if you have conducted an audit or survey that is not included here, please contact us so we can add it to this page.

Contact us at or send a copy of your series to:

  • FOI Center
  • 101 Reynolds Journalism Institute
  • Missouri School of Journalism
  • Columbia MO 65211

State FOIA Audits













A public-records survey was conducted by the Alabama Center for Open Government and news organizations, including the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the University of Alabama chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Volunteers, including students and journalists, made 662 public records requests in 67 counties, 189 cities and towns, 91 school districts, and 12 colleges and universities. Surveyors asked for a range of documents, including minutes from city-council and county-commission meetings, incident reports, jail logs, performance evaluations of school superintendents, and daily campus crime logs.

Law enforcement organizations were found to be the least compliant; 52% of sheriff’s departments and 37% of police departments rejected public-records requests, despite a 1999 opinion from the Alabama attorney general’s office requiring the front page of an incident report to be made public. Only 87% of campus police organizations made university crime logs public, even though federal law requires it.

While some police and sheriff’s departments cited privacy concerns, Edward Mullins, the center’s co-chairman, said he believed they lacked proper training in how to handle requests for public records. He pointed out that the Alabama Association of County Commissions runs a training program for its members — county commissions were the most compliant in the survey providing minutes 92% of the time — but no such training program exists for law enforcement agencies.

Surveyors also encountered problems getting documents from school districts, reporting that only 30% of those surveyed provided the superintendent performance evaluations. Only 76% of the school districts kept such evaluations on file.

Analysis from The First Amendment Center.

By the numbers:

  • Number of surveys completed: 622
  • Counties covered: 67
  • Towns, cities and college campuses covered: 201
  • Types of Records Sought: 7
  • Media professionals participating: 100
  • Civic volunteers participating: 33
  • University students and faculty participating: 45
  • Percent of surveyors who were women: 48
  • Percent of surveyors who were minorities: 10
  • Number of media companies participating: 29
  • Age range of surveyors: 18-82
  • Average cost per page of a record: $0.98
  • Average minutes spent at agency: 10.4

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FOI Arkansas Project

The FOI Arkansas Project, designed to test how public officials respond to citizens requesting public records under the state Freedom of Information Act, was the first such survey done in Arkansas.

The project, which included a six-part survey, was a collaborative effort of reporters, editors and publishers of five daily newspapers and the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock.

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Audit Report 2007: Public Access to Law Enforcement Information

A systematic survey of the openness of law enforcement agencies to sharing information about themselves with citizens in their local communities, including but not limited to their compliance with state public information law.

Audit Report 2007: Public Access to Law Enforcement Information — Follow-up

A follow-up to the systematic survey completed in January 2007 of the openness of law enforcement agencies to sharing information about themselves with citizens in their local communities, including but not limited to their compliance with state public information law.

2006 State Agency Audit

CPRA compliance audit conducted on 31 state agencies.

Oakland Tribune Survey

The survey asked agencies to detail how they responded to public records act requests between August 1991 and August 1992. It also asked the agencies to specify their policies on answering such requests and how much they charged for information.

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Your Right To Know

A survey conducted by Colorado Press Association Member Newspapers and the Associated Press in the Summer of 2006. The survey included requests for records in 21 counties from the Western Slope to the eastern Plains. It covered municipal and county agencies, school districts and special districts. To request the records over two days in June, newspapers recruited members of the public, interns and reporters who identified themselves when asked.

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Connecticut schools respond to FOIA requests for superintendent contracts

The New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Torrington Register Citizen are working on gathering all school chief contracts for Connecticut in order to build a searchable database. They also decided to test the responsiveness of each district under FOI law.

2001 Access to Public Records Survey

With an Independent Analysis by Harry A. Hammitt, Esq., Editor and Publisher of Access Reports. This study of compliance by state agencies with the Connecticut Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is the logical sequel to the one conducted by the same sponsoring organizations in 1999 concerning compliance by local agencies. Like the earlier survey, this one is also patterned after an FOI municipal compliance survey in 1998 in Rhode Island. That survey was undertaken by students from Brown University, under the direction of Professor Ross Cheit, and the University of Rhode Island, under the direction of Professor Linda Levin, in collaboration with ACCESS/RI.

1999 Access to Public Records Survey

A survey to determine how access to public records under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act was working has indicated that the vast majority of municipal offices do not routinely comply with the requirements of the law. Three different kinds of public agencies were surveyed – school superintendents’ offices, police agencies, and municipal clerks’ offices – and each was asked to allow viewing of a particular category of records that is clearly public. The specific category of records requested included teacher attendance records from school districts, arrest records from police agencies, and marriage license applications from clerks’ offices.

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Florida Society of Newspaper Editors conduct audit

A public records audit conducted in October, 2008, showed similar results as in previous years with 43 percent of agencies reviewed failing to properly turn over emails written by their top administrators. Less than 1 in 3 auditors actually received the emails they requested, either because the agency placed illegal demands on them, said no emails or memos existed or because of delays in getting the record.

Public Records Audit: Some records requests met with suspicion and threats

HERALD TRIBUNE, 2007 — During a week in January, 30 Florida newspapers, including The St. Augustine Record, tested how officials responded to a routine request to inspect records. Reporters and other news media employees posing as citizens visited 234 local agencies in 62 of Florida’s 67 counties. Items requested included public officials’ e-mails, cell phone records and routine police logs. Overall, 57 percent of the agencies audited complied with the public records law, including most of those in St. Johns County, where school officials required a written request for the school superintendent’s cell phone records.

Public Records Audit: Privacy in the Sunshine

ST. AUGUSTINE RECORD, 2004 — Floridians have debated how much access citizens should have to government records since at least 1909, when lawmakers wrote the state’s first public records law. Legislators, who singularly possess the power to make government records secret, regularly introduce new exemptions that would add to the roughly 850 that already exist.

An Audit of Florida’s Public Records Law

Michele Bush, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, 1999 — Access to government information is being thwarted in government agencies across the country, and Florida is no different. When citizens experience difficulty while attempting to access public records, it interferes with their rights to oversee government. Perhaps one of the greatest checks on government inefficiency or corruption is the public’s right to access government information. For, as former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said of overseeing government, “Sunlight is the most powerful of all disinfectants.”

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 13, 2005 — Under the name of an individual citizen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed open records requests with 66 metro police departments in mid-February. The request was for the “uniform crime report, Part 1” from each department. The seven “Part 1” crimes are murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.

Sunshine Laws keep government open and honest

By Gwinnett Daily Post, December 19, 2004 — When the Gwinnett Daily Post reporters cast a net for open records, they didn’t know what they’d pull back in. We made a simple request of our sources. Simple and required of them by law to meet. What we found in some cases encouraged us. In other cases, we completely understand why those people we refer to as “Average Joes” get frustrated or don’t even bother getting involved. Sometimes the hassle to get public information, even those an entity is legally required to provide, is just not worth the trouble. Therein lies the rub: If an entity can put up enough roadblocks, will the person making the request just go away? What’s to keep them honest if no one’s asking any questions?

How Much Open Government Is There In Georgia?

(pdf file/39 MB) — Produced by the Albany Herald, Athens Daily News/Banner-Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Augusta Chronicle, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Community Newspapers (North Georgia), Gainesville Times, Macon Telegraph, Morgan County Citizen (Madison), Savannah Morning News, Thomson Newspapers (South Georgia), Georgia AP, and the Georgia First Amendment Foundation (December 1999)

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2006 Freedom of Information Compliance Audit

Ten community organizations today released the first Freedom of Information Audit of Hawaii’s government records. Thirty-three volunteers–mostly from the League of Women Voters–fanned out in February across the state to request records that are unquestionably public records and should be released to a requestor upon request. What they found was a pattern of defensiveness and reluctance.

Following are articles from various “Locked Out” surveys conducted by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin over the years.

Monday, September 2, 1996 LOCKED OUT: Hawaii government’s slide toward secrecy What’s accessible and what’s not?

Tuesday, September 3, 1996 LOCKED OUT: The gutting of the OIP

Wednesday, September 4, 1996 LOCKED OUT: Private meetings, public business: the Sunshine Law

Thursday, September 5, 1996 LOCKED OUT: Police discipline files

Friday, September 6, 1996 LOCKED OUT: Hawaii: open or no? Media take lumps

Saturday, September 7, 1996 LOCKED OUT: Freedom watchdogs worry Legislature jumps on line, then slumps

Saturday, September 14, 1996 Viewpoint: The Office of Information Practices replies in our “Viewpoint” column

Friday, March 7, 1997 LOCKED OUT: 1997 Legislative session update

Tuesday, March 18, 1997 Star-Bulletin wins national award for Locked Out series

Monday, March 31, 1997 LOCKED OUT: Discipline board says it’s above disclosure But the attorneys agency answers to the state Supreme Court

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Study still shows massive FOIA noncompliance in Illinois

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform submitted FOIA requests to 400 governments statewide – 43 percent of them violated the law by never even responding to the request, according to its April report. The result mirrors pre-reform analyses done by The Associated Press and the Better Government Association showing that many of the state’s 7,000 units of government don’t provide the public with the public records paid for by their tax dollars.

More from the Illinois FOIA audit here.

Illinois towns hit on access to information

When Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan heard the results of this newspaper survey—in which requests for public records were denied one-fourth of the time—he ordered his staff to conduct a wholesale review of the Illinois FoI law. One possible result: An FoI commission that would arbitrate citizen complaints about denial of access to records.

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2008 Indiana Public Access Survey

Most people who sought formal opinions from the Indiana Public Access Counselor between July 2005 and June 2007 thought the office helped them  get access to public records or meetings. But an overwhelming majority also believe the PAC should have the ability to levy fines or issue enforcement actions against public officials who fail to comply with Indiana’s access laws. Those are among the key findings of an important survey by ICOG in partnership with the Indiana University School of Journalism.

2004 Indiana Public Access Survey

Officials can’t keep public in the dark

Counselor helps people when government won’t

Public Access: Where does indiana stand?

Open Records, Closed Doors

Indiana’s 1998 “Open Records, Closed Doors” FOI project set the standard for future FOI audits. Seven newspapers shared personnel and research when reporters fanned out to all of Indiana’s 92 counties to request public records. The five-part series revealed wide-spread violations of the state’s public records law, including 66 county sheriffs who refused to release crime reports.

The series won the 1998 Freedom of Information Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Adoption records are most secretive in public files — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette

Reporter discovers wall of resistance, outright refusals — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The E.W. Scripps Co.

Open-records laws too often hit closed-door policy — February 1998, Evansville Courier, © 1998 The E.W. Scripps Co.

Open Records, Closed Doors. Audit by newspapers finds Indiana officials routinely violate the law — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The Indianapolis Star

Indiana Supreme Court gets mixed reviews in records-access issue — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The Indianapolis Star and News

Conflicting laws result in secrecy — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette

Want to see a crime log? Have your ID ready — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The E.W. Scripps Co.

In battle for the right to know, average citizen almost on own — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The Times of Northwest Indiana

Hoosier activist often denied access to state public records — February 1998, Evansville Courier, ©1998 The Times of Northwest Indiana

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The State of Iowa’s Freedom of Information Act

Contained herein are 10 articles from the March, 2005 audit by the Des Moines Register. Below are more articles related to the survey.

Riverdale: Open records fight has town in turmoil

RIVERDALE, Iowa — At an Oct. 2 (2007) Riverdale City Council meeting, mayoral candidate Marie Randol took up her usual spot in a corner of the room and videotaped the proceedings with a hand-held camera.

Survey: Iowa residents often denied access to public records

from September, 2000 — Citizens seeking crime statistics, routine police reports, nursing home records and other public information about their government routinely are turned away by local officials, many of whom are unaware of the state’s open-records law, an investigation by 13 Iowa newspapers has found. Twelve daily newspapers and one weekly paper conducted the joint investigation in the spring.

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Access Maryland 2003

A training initiative for custodians of state records in Maryland will begin soon, thanks to a public records audit conducted by the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. The Aug. 21 audit, conducted anonymously by staffs of MDDC members, found that 40 percent of the records sought were not provided. The study included 25 public records held by 15 state agencies.

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Let the sunshine in: How public are our public records?

Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7, 54 students from four Wayne State University journalism law and reporting classes made 153 visits to public agencies, including 50 visits to municipal governments, three to counties, 53 to police and sheriff’s departments and 47 to school districts.

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How the states rate in providing online access to government spending data

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending promotes fiscal responsibility, checks corruption, and bolsters public confidence. The Missouri Public Interest Research Group Foundation evaluates the progress of America’s 30 largest cities toward “Transparency 2.0” – a standard of encompassing, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

For more information, see the project here.

2001 YELLOW SHEET: Office of the State Auditor of Missouri, Claire McCaskill

This audit examined how well Missouri’s nearly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions comply with public records requests under Sunshine Law provisions. The audit reviewed the timeliness of processing a request; the reasonableness of denying a request and the fees charged for such requests. Contains link to entire report.

State agencies poor in complying with Missouri’s sunshine law, audit finds

State agencies aren’t much better than local governments in complying with the Missouri sunshine law, an audit released today found. State Auditor Claire McCaskill said almost half of state government bodies surveyed did not adequately respond to requests from her office, disguised as letters from citizens, for copies of public records. That percentage mirrors the findings of a 1999 audit of local government bodies’ compliance with the open-records law.

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Most schools hand over information

The Montana Standard — Montana’s school districts receive mostly high marks when it comes to releasing public documents, but not everyone agrees on what is public or who gets to see them.

Public records audit shows mixed results

The Billings Gazette — BILLINGS – How public are Montana’s public records? Are state laws and the state constitution, which guarantee access to public information, being followed?

Audit finds some Ravalli officials decline to release documents

The Ravalli Republic — HAMILTON – Public information, in Ravalli County at least, may not be all that public, a recent state-wide survey revealed.

How the tri-county area fared in survey

The Helena Independent Record — HELENA – Following are the survey results in Broadwater, Jefferson and Lewis & Clark Counties.

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New Mexico Public Records Access Audit

(pdf file/38.2 MB) — The survey found 30 percent of records denied. County, city, court and school officials routinely violate state law by failing to release public records such as budgets, public employees’ salaries and reports of crimes and court cases, a statewide survey by New Mexico newspapers found. Thee of every 10 requests for access to records were unsuccessful in a check of 210 government offices in all 33 New Mexico counties.

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Why is candor bad for business?

As they showered generosity on corporations, it appears that North Carolina agencies were being stingy in another area: the public’s right to know what was in all those incentive packages. State Sen. David Hoyle has a plan to address the alleged foot-dragging. The Gaston County Democrat wants details to be released as soon as the local or state agency announces a project.

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Open Records Report: Special Edition

(pdf file/720 KB) — Newspapers across Ohio recently published results of the public records access audit conducted in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. Tom Gaumer and Tom O’Hara, both of The Plain Dealer, served as project coordinators for the audit, which involved inspecting the same six records at public offices. The records sought included: county minutes, executive expense report, police chief pay, police incident reports, superintendent compensation and school treasurer phone bill.

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Registration required:

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Oregon Attorney General’s Government Transparency Report (212KB PDF)

A 2007 study of government transparency in the 50 states gave Oregon an “F.” Based on testimony submitted to Attorney General John Kroger in conjunction with public meetings across the state, many Oregonians who use the state’s Public Records Law to understand the activities of their government agree with that assessment. Oregon’s law is clogged with hundreds of confusing exemptions, and requests for records are often met with high fee requirements and long delays.

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In three separate studies over a three-year period, students from Brown University’s Taubman Center for Public Policy documented lax compliance with access laws. The first investigation revealed that while most officials complied with requests, compliance from police was “the exception, not the rule,” with police refusing 65 percent of legitimate access requests. The follow-up study showed that within a year, most police departments allowed access to the police log, a document often denied to researchers the first time around. But the second study still revealed resistance to requests by municipal officials.

The Taubman Center then tackled the problem of off-limit records in public courts. The study, released October 2000, revealed missing files, inconsistent compliance with FOI laws and even improperly expunged records of a convicted felon.

The audits are linked below.

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S.C. government officials often fail to comply with FOI law

The law isn’t working very well, based on the results of the first statewide check of compliance coordinated by the Associated Press and the South Carolina Press Association. In nearly one out of every three cases, when records were requested, they were denied or not produced within the law’s time limits.

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Tennessee Audits

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government has a great series of audits on their site (linked above), as well as a number of news stories regarding open records and open government linked here.

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UTT Students Survey FOI Compliance In East Texas

Open government training could be a factor in improved compliance rates recorded last year in East Texas, but the educational mandate may not be broad enough to ensure key public employees follow the law, according to a university study. Journalism students at The University of Texas at Tyler found that two-thirds of the 118 entities they surveyed employ someone with the required training in open records law, although that person may not always be the one who has initial contact with the public.

Needling the Haystack

A 1,683-mile drive taught us that educators don’t always entertain an open-door policy when it comes to public records.

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A survey of Virginia’s county and independent city websites

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government assesses and grades the performance of Virginia’s 134 counties and independent cities in providing easy online access to local government’s annual budget through its survey. As the performance varies from locality to locality, the county-by-city report card that follows the narrative and explanatory portion of the report includes every grade from A+ to F.

For more information, see the project here.

All the following are pdf files of various sizes.

FOIA Audit shows widespread abuse; records provided only 58% of the time — Nov. 1998, paper, © copyright

Few Sheriffs, police chiefs willing to turn over criminal incident reports — Nov. 1, 1998, The Daily Press, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Freedom of Information Means Peace of Mind to Many — Nov. 2, 1998, The Daily Press + Richmond Times Dispatch, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Government Meetings Often Held Behind Closed Doors — Nov. 1, 1998, The Daily Press + The Virginian-PIlot, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Lawyer Stymied When He Takes on VHDA — Nov. 1, 1998, The Free Lance-Star, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Man Needs Month, Judge’s Help, To Get a Detailed Copy of Budge — Nov. 1, 1998, The Daily Press, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Region’s Compliance with FOI Slightly Better Than Statewide Rate — Nov. 1, 1998, The Daily Press, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

State Employee Denied Access to Records Related to Her Work — Nov. 1, 1998, The Richmond-Times Dispatch, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Study Highlights Need for FOI Training for Frontline Workers — Nov. 1, 1998, The Roanoke Times, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Subcommittee Looks at Loopholes in Freedom of Information Act — Nov. 1, 1998, The Roanoke Times & The Virginian-Pilot, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Want Public Information? In Virginia Good Luck — Nov. 1, 1998, The Daily Press, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

Woman Wanted Agendas of Informal Meetings, Too — Nov. 1, 1998, The Free Lance-Star, © 1998 Daily Press Internet Edition

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Daily Record and Central Washington University Observer partner audits

The May 10 stories on open records are the result of a partnership between the Daily Record and the Central Washington University Observer student newspaper and the school’s journalism department. In addition to the May 10 stories the Observer has articles on how departments at Central Washington University responded to public records requests. The series concludes on May 11 with a report on how various Ellensburg city offices dealt with similar requests.

Be sure to follow the links at the bottom of the articles.

Journalism students conduct open records sting

Record seekers treated with respect

County rates poorly in state public records audit

April 1, 2008 — Only the city of Seattle fared worse than Yakima County in a public records performance audit the state Auditor’s Office will release later this month. According to a draft version of the audit report, the county adequately responded to five out of 10 anonymous requests for public records. The city of Yakima, by contrast, scored a perfect 10 out of 10.

State audit: Public records often more closed than open in Washington

November, 2001 — Starting June 21, reporters and other staffers from 26 news organizations, posing as ordinary citizens, requested lists of registered sex offenders, reports on crimes, home values, school superintendent contracts and restaurant inspections from agencies in all 39 Washington counties. The survey was the first of its kind to examine Washington’s Public Records Act, which defines a public record as any document prepared, owned, used or kept by a state or local agency. Such records are presumed to be public, unless specifically exempted from disclosure by law.

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West Virginia officials often hesitant to hand over public records

November, 2001 — Starting June 21, reporters and other staffers from 26 news organizations, posing as ordinary citizens, requested lists of registered sex offenders, reports on crimes, home values, school superintendent contracts and restaurant inspections from agencies in all 39 Washington counties. The survey was the first of its kind to examine Washington’s Public Records Act, which defines a public record as any document prepared, owned, used or kept by a state or local agency. Such records are presumed to be public, unless specifically exempted from disclosure by law.

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Some record requests not properly filled in Wisconsin

MADISON – A statewide public records audit found that one in 10 requests for basic documents were denied or ignored by local governments. Another two in 10 requests were fulfilled only after records custodians required the requesters to identify themselves or explain why they wanted the documents, in violation of state law. The audit, conducted by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, involved 318 public records requests filed in 65 counties. See more here.

Trek into world of open records is eye-opener for UW-RF students

(pdf file/592 KB) — Two classes of college students learned recently that it’s not terribly difficult to obtain access to local government records, and although not all the records were produced graciously, most were.

Records-law compliance varies by entity

A spot check of central Wisconsin local governments’ compliance with the state’s public records law turned up wide-ranging results. Twenty area units of government in Clark, Marathon, Taylor and Wood counties all provided information about their 10 highest-paid employees – eventually.

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