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

December 6, 2011 11:58 AM

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) is seeking candidates who are interested in joining our organization as its Executive Director.

TCOG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and non-partisan alliance of media, citizen and professional groups working to educate Tennesseans about their right to know about the affairs of their government as set out in the Tennessee constitution and Tennessee’s “sunshine” laws, including the open meetings and public records laws.

Our purpose is to serve as a clearinghouse of information on problems and solutions in the “open government” arena at the state and local level.

TCOG seeks to keep citizens, media and public officials informed about developments and threats to these laws, through projects, and programs -- with an understanding that the best way to preserve and improve access to public business is through research and education.

This position currently requires an average of 30 hours per week – with more time required during the state legislative session and study group meetings and less time the rest of the year.

The optimal job candidate will have:

•  a bachelors degree and experience that provides a working knowledge of the Tennessee public records and open meetings laws, court precedents and relevant opinions of the Attorney General. Needs to be able to advise citizens and reporters on about these statutes and opinions without presenting this information as legal advice;

•  the skills necessary to collaborate with a wide range of groups and individuals;

•  the ability to organize and maintain a system to identify threats to open government, including monitoring proposed legislation, legal developments, statewide news coverage and calls from citizens and journalists who inquire about problems;

•  the ability to successfully seek funding through grants and contributions and to coordinate fundraising activities with TCOG board members and other supporters to support a level of services the Board of Directors determines appropriate;

•  the capacity to develop and maintain a communications system that keeps the public, TCOG board, TCOG Advisory Committee and TCOG partners up to date on developments affecting open government. This includes writing and editing skills needed to produce op-ed and educational pieces, help maintain a website, and use social media;

•  the ability to manage the business affairs of the organization, ensuring that all administrative and regulatory filings are completed on time to protect the group’s 501(c)(3) tax status. These include the IRS 990 tax return, corporation annual report and Charitable Solicitations permit with the Secretary of State, and filings with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.

•  the ability to respond to calls for information and other assistance from journalists and citizens, making it clear that guidance provided does not constitute legal advice. Track and report on those calls.

A letter of application and resume should be emailed as a PDF or similar format to by December 15, 2011.

A PDF of the announcement is here.

Tennessee Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC.

December 5, 2011 6:14 PM

From CT News Junkie:

A lawyer for the state Freedom of Information Commission abandoned an argument his office had been making for the past three years when he got to the Supreme Court on Monday, confusing the Supreme Court Justices and the man who filed the FOI complaint.

Up until Monday, the case had been expected to be the first time the Supreme Court would consider whether public entities can use an exemption in the state’s freedom of information statutes to withhold trade secrets.

December 5, 2011 6:06 PM

From Your Houston News:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today opened the 2011 Open Government Conference with a keynote address highlighting the Office of the Attorney General's successful defense of the state's Open Meetings Act and ongoing efforts to foster transparency and openness in government. Attorney General Abbott also introduced conference attendees to the OAG's new Electronic Filing System for open records ruling requests.

"There's perhaps no clearer sign of a healthy democracy than a government that keeps its information and its meetings accessible to the people it serves," Attorney General Abbott said. "Public trust is fostered when citizens can find out what their government is doing. Texas open government laws make that knowledge possible."

December 5, 2011 6:02 PM

From O'Reilly's Radar:

As 2011 comes to an end, there are 28 international open data platforms in the open government community. By the end of 2012, code from new "" may help many more countries to stand up their own platforms. A partnership between the United States and India on open government has borne fruit: progress on making the open data platform open source.

In a post at the blog, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel (@StevenVDC) and federal CTO Aneesh Chopra (@AneeshChopra) explained more about how is going global:

As part of a joint effort by the United States and India to build an open government platform, the U.S. team has deposited open source code — an important benchmark in developing the Open Government Platform that will enable governments around the world to stand up their own open government data sites.

December 5, 2011 5:52 PM

From CalAware Today:

A Northern California school district’s commitment to unlawful secrecy cost it an estimated $300,000 in attorney’s fees—most of it paid to two different law firms to unsuccessfully defend against a parent’s lawsuit to obtain access to his son’s pupil records, the parent says.

Almost two years ago, Mike Harris asked the Roseville Joint Union High School District to show him records in connection with his son’s expulsion from the basketball team for having created a satirical video—off campus and on his own time—about adolescent drug use in the affluent Granite Bay community, and posting it on Youtube. The district showed him some, but not all the requested records.

“They gave me what they said were my son’s complete official record but what they gave me was nowhere near the complete record. They claimed the electronic records and emails that they maintain and use on a daily basis were not official records and that they did not have to give them to me. They were wrong,” Harris says.

school records
December 2, 2011 4:37 PM

A few items selected from many of interest recently.

Cyber security bill promotes sharing of threat data

Legislation introduced in the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday is designed to knock down the barriers that interfere with the federal government and the private sector sharing critical information about cybersecurity threats.

Visit CNN:Security Clearance for the rest.

Emails between Ethics Office and Former Regulator Cast Light on Revolving Door Spin

In Washington, the revolving door is practically a fact of life. Federal employees routinely leave their posts for better-paying positions in the private sector--often in the very same industry they used to regulate. But Michael Bromwich, the head of the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) interim gas, oil, and minerals drilling agency, told reporters this week that he won't take this route.

Visit Project On Government Oversight for the rest.

NICE wishes you a cost effective Christmas

NICE has disclosed information about its use of corporate credit cards following a request made under the Freedom of Information Act. The Institute has responded by making records of employees’ use of credit cards available in full - but the accounts have failed to uncover any obviously inappropriate spending.

Visit InPharm for the rest.

BARR is back: Privacy rights restored

Pilots can again protect private data about their aircraft’s movements from being publicly released, the FAA announced Dec. 2, responding to provisions of a recent law. Congress had effectively restored the Block Aircraft Registration Request program by overwhelming vote in November, in a Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bill.

Visit AOPA Online for the rest.

SPLC, student journalist resolve public records dispute with Kan. community college

A college journalist and the Student Press Law Center have settled their lawsuit with Johnson County Community College stemming from the school’s $24,000 price tag for documents under an open records request.

Visit SPLC for the rest.

How open data has changed journalism

Tomorrow (Saturday 3 December) is International Open Data Day. has been asking what the open data movement has done for journalism.

Visit for the rest.

Senate adopts Leahy transparency amendment to defense bill

The U.S. Senate Thursday adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to limit an overbroad legislative exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. The amendment was adopted unanimously. The Senate will vote on final passage of the NDAA later this evening.

Visit for the rest.

December 1, 2011 4:09 PM

From EurekAlert!:

WASHINGTON — Publicly posting enforcement and testing data corresponding to specific meat, poultry, and egg products' processing plants on the Internet could have "substantial benefits," including the potential to favorably impact public health, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report adds that the release of such data could contribute to increased transparency and yield valuable insights that go beyond the regulatory uses for which the data are collected.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. It collects voluminous amounts of data at thousands of processing facilities in support of its regulatory functions and is considering the release of two types of collected data on its website. These include inspection and enforcement data and sampling and testing data -- such as testing for the presence of food borne pathogens like salmonella, pathogenic E. coli, and listeria monocytogenes. Some of this information is already available to the public via the Internet but is aggregated and does not contain names of specific processing facilities. However, most of the data FSIS collects, with the exception of information that is considered proprietary, can currently be obtained by the public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)..

November 30, 2011 11:08 AM


WASHINGTON — In the final weeks of Mitt Romney's term as Massachusetts governor, a small team of aides combed through statehouse filing cabinets. They filled more than 630 cartons with papers destined for the state archives as the primary documentary legacy of his administration. One floor, though, was almost completely off limits to them: Romney's inner sanctum, his third-floor office.


Romney's selective policy toward public access and preservation of his executive records raises stark questions about how transparent his administration would be if he were to become president. He's not alone. Other leading candidates for the presidency incumbent Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have touted their commitment to transparency, but their administrations also have been selective at times in the records they disclose. They have limited, stalled or denied access when it suited their purposes.

November 29, 2011 5:13 PM

From Central Valley Business Times:

SACRAMENTO — The California Public Utilities Commission would be yanked into the sunshine of the state’s Public Records Act under a bill being proposed by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

The bill is prompted by a report in the San Francisco Chronicle that documents several instances of the CPUC denying public access to safety reports, audits, and other public information. The Chronicle reporting revealed that most documents at the CPUC are shielded by a secrecy statute passed in 1951 and a Commission rule adopted in the mid-1950s.

November 29, 2011 1:50 PM

From GovOnline:

For state and local governments, the storing and dissemination of records, information and data is an enormous but essential daily undertaking. From birth certificates to driver’s licenses and other important records, citizens, government employees and private enterprises need to be able to access the records that government agencies keep.

Unfortunately, for citizens, county employees and land developers in Fairfax County, Va., the ability to access the land use data that the county had on record was, until recently, a convoluted and difficult process.

November 29, 2011 1:25 PM

From the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

President Obama issued a memorandum today calling for federal agencies to submit specific plans to reform records management practices, and report to the Office of Management and Budget within 120 days.

Specifically, each agency is asked to turn in a plan on how they will better manage electronic records, including email and social media data. Agencies are also asked to report on their use, if any, of cloud-based storage services, a method for storing data in remote data centers.

"When records are well managed, agencies can use them to assess the impact of programs, to reduce redundant efforts, to save money, and to share knowledge within and across their organizations," the memo said. "In these ways, proper records management is the backbone of open government."

Obama's directive comes in response to a 2010 assessment from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that showed most government agencies are not properly keeping electronic records. Of the 93 percent of agencies that self-reported findings, 95 percent acknowledged being at high to moderate risk of losing or compromising records.

November 28, 2011 6:21 PM


LITTLETON — A New Hampshire attorney with years of experience in cases involving the state’s right-to-know law thinks the question of who should pay for records in a Littleton legal battle — the town and its police department, or a local merchant who wants the documents — presents a legal argument that’s likely headed for the state’s high court.

Bill Chapman of the Concord law firm Orr & Reno said, “I would think this might be a very interesting appeal matter for the Supreme Court.”

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