The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

May 3, 2017 10:11 PM

[Miranda] Spivack spearheaded a database project with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called State Secrets. The project examined open records laws across the country.

"Alabama is one of the most closed," Spivack said. "Pretty much on every single question we asked, the answer was no, we don't do that. No, we can charge you anything we want. No, there's no time limit," she added.

The lack of a deadline for officials to respond leaves requesters waiting with no end in sight.

Continue...

May 3, 2017 10:08 PM

Michigan State University is suing ESPN over a public records request involving police reports relating to ongoing sexual assault investigations.

MSU argues in a court filing that it has been put in an "impossible position" because Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon's office asked the university to withhold the records and ESPN asked for them to be released.

An ESPN Inc. reporter submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with the university Feb. 10 seeking all police reports containing allegations of sexual assault since Dec. 10, 2016, as well as records of arrests made between Feb. 6 and Feb. 9, according to court documents. The request came one day after MSU announced the suspensions of three MSU football players and a staff member associated with the team amid a sexual assault investigation.

Continue...

May 3, 2017 10:03 PM

From National Geographic: 

In January, the USDA deleted a public database that included inspection records from zoos, circuses, and research labs. In the agency’s response to our FOIA request, it still refuses to say why.

They exposed abuses at roadside zoos, uncovered controversial government-funded animal experiments, and revealed the mistreatment of circus elephants. They confirmed dog breeders weren't running puppy mills and that horse trainers weren’t exploiting their racers and jumpers. The records in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s online animal welfare database allowed journalists, investigators, and the public to look up inspection reports and violations of animal welfare laws.

Continue...

May 3, 2017 12:00 AM

Judicial Watch Inc. filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit March 23 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that some Environmental Protection Agency officials “may have used the cellphone encryption application ‘Signal’ to thwart government oversight and transparency,” according to a Judicial Watch news release.

Judicial Watch said it initially made an FOIA request for documents related to the encryption allegations Feb. 3. The EPA did not respond to that request, Judicial Watch said. According to the lawsuit, the EPA was required to decide whether to comply with the FOIA request within 20 days, meaning a decision would have been due by March 14.

Specifically, the lawsuit asks the court to order the EPA to turn over “any and all work-related communications sent to or from the following EPA officials using the app known as Signal for the period Feb. 3, 2016, to the present.”

Continue...

May 2, 2017 11:57 PM

But if a bill under consideration in the Colorado legislature had been in effect, arrest records showing the names of the juveniles would not have been released – not then and perhaps not for several months.

Under House Bill 17-1204, a judge would have to order a juvenile be charged as an adult to trigger the public release of all currently available arrest and criminal records in such cases. A judge makes that decision after a reverse transfer hearing, in which youths who are “direct filed” in adult court ask to have their cases sent to juvenile court.

A reverse transfer hearing often takes place well after a district attorney has decided to file adult charges against a teenager, the current trigger for the release of arrest information. “It can take three to six to nine months to get a final decision from the court,” said Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

Continue...

May 2, 2017 11:47 PM

In this suit testing the enforcement powers in the D.C. Open Meetings Act, Superior Court Judge John Campbell heard argument last Friday (28) on pending motions from both sides for summary judgment (decision without a trial). The hearing was the first time the parties squared off in court.

The Office of Open Government (OOG) is part of the District government but, to avoid conflict of interest were the D.C. Attorney General to represent both the Office and the commission being sued, the Office is represented by pro bono counsel from the D.C. law firm of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP.

The court made no rulings.

The OOG brought suit against the D.C. mayor's Caribbean Community Affairs Commission, alleging it held meetings without posting public notices or publishing minutes afterwards. Filed in October 2016, the case is the first court action by the Office, an independent agency created by the D.C. Council in the 2011 Act to be the enforcement watchdog.

Continue... 

May 1, 2017 11:10 PM

The New England First Amendment Coalition expressed concern this week about a proposed policy that would limit access to recordings of the Maine State House Facilities Committee, calling such recordings “an invaluable tool to aid with accuracy and immediacy, and one that is in the public’s great interest.”

The State House Facilities Committee is responsible for, among other things, the management of the capitol grounds and legislative space in the State House. It is currently considering three policies for the recording of its public hearings:

(1) provide the recordings for public viewing on the legislature’s website,
(2) provide the recordings to the public only by request, or
(3) immediately delete the recordings after they are publicly broadcasted.

Continue...

May 1, 2017 11:08 PM

Florida lawmakers are considering letting local officials meet one on one, outside of the public eye. But a first amendment advocate says the change could encourage corruption.

Florida’s sunshine laws require government meetings to be noticed and open to the public. But some lawmakers want to let local officials meet one on one. They wouldn’t be able to take votes or discuss publicly funded projects. But that doesn’t satisfy Barbara Petersen with the First Amendment Foundation.

Continue...

May 1, 2017 11:06 PM

A coalition of organizations dedicated to government openness and accountability, human rights, civil rights, and immigrant rights is calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to comply with the legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and fully disclose information on immigration enforcement cooperation between federal and non-federal law enforcement agencies. We urge ICE to comply with the FOIA in a timely manner, and to permit the release of data on immigration enforcement cooperation in full compliance with local and state transparency laws.

The coalition is concerned that ICE has significantly reduced the amount of information it is releasing, while at the same time publishing incomplete and selective information in its weekly “Declined Detainer Outcome Reports.” These reports have been criticized for being used in a discriminatory manner to target undocumented communities and punish cities that the administration claims do not cooperate with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. Following the announcement that ICE is suspending the publication of these weekly reports, we are calling on ICE to disclose the full record on immigration cooperation in response to public FOIA requests.

Continue...

April 29, 2017 9:35 AM

They’re outside the traditional forms of local or state government, but so-called special districts spend more than $200 billion annually.

Nationwide, there are 38,000 of these government entities that provide a specific service for a designated area that would otherwise typically be provided by a local or state government.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and the Frontier Group inspected 79 special districts in a report they released Tuesday. The report found many lack fiscal transparency and easy access to audited financial statements or checkbook-level spending data.

Here in Connecticut, there are over 447 special districts. In 2013, the last year for which data was available, those special districts managed over well over $1.4 billion. These numbers, according to the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, are conservative because only a fraction of special districts in each state actually report to the U.S. Census.

Continue...

April 29, 2017 9:31 AM

The Connecticut General Assembly is trying to exert more control over CT-N TV coverage of state government proceedings under a new request for proposals for a new five-year contract, raising protests freedom-of-information advocates.

The issue was Topic A at a midday meeting Wednesday of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information—a group that has been "working for open, accountable government and a free press since 1955," according to its website.

Continue...

April 29, 2017 9:27 AM

Western Kentucky University is asking for a stay in a case involving an Open Records dispute between the university and the Kentucky Attorney General's office.

In court documents, WKU has asked for the stay until a similar case involving the University of Kentucky is resolved.

WKU is suing the college's student newspaper after denying an open records request for paperwork about 20 sexual misconduct investigations among university employees in the past four years. The Kentucky Attorney General has intervened in the case.

The motion says by ordering a stay in the case, it will save time and reduce litigation expenses.

Continue...

Syndicate content