FOI Daily Dose: Open records threatened in Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania

Arizona city suggests capping records requests that take ‘long hours’ to complete

Arizona open records laws may be under attack if the legislature passes a bill that threatens to limit the number of information requests a person can file, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. Currently, Arizona law says records must be “open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours.” But Yuma City Records Coordinator Susan Alden told the Daily Sun this law requires long hours for staffers to meet multiple, broad records requests. Even so, she said there is “less need to limit the number of requests someone can submit in a period time,” and more need to allow agencies to charge for research time.

Wisconsin FOI Council calls out organization for labeling their own records private

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is challenging a national federalism and conservative public policy organization for exchanging documents with government officials through private online drop boxes and labeling its own materials with disclaimers saying they are not subject to the Wisconsin open records law, according to the Beloit Daily News.

Michael Bowman, senior director of policy and strategic initiatives for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), said the organization publicizes its final policy decisions. But until then it keeps documents secret so they aren’t mistaken for final policy, the Daily New reported.

The group also uses drop box to exchange documents instead of email because it thinks drop box files are not subject to public records.

But the Freedom of Information Council scoffs at these practices, coming alongside Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy that filed a lawsuit June 6 seeking ALEC’s materials related to a Republican state senator.

“A stamp by a private non-governmental group saying the records that it shares with lawmakers are not subject to open records laws should carry no weight,” Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, told the Daily News.  “Absolutely none.”

Pennsylvania county conceals records for controller charged with felony

A Pennsylvania county denied the Citizens’ Voice news organization’s open records request for a county controller’s email records because he was arrested on felony electronic-surveillance charges, and he allegedly violated the state’s wiretap law, according to the Citizens’ Voice.

The Voice requested copies of the controller’s emails from January to May 2013 and from Jan. 1, 2012 to April 30, 2012, but said on June 11 that they were denied by Luzerne County because the controller “is under criminal and non-criminal investigations.”

The Citizens’ Voice said it plans to file appeals to the state Office of Open Records claiming that it is implausible that all of the controller’s emails are exempt from the Right To Know Law.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at khackett@spj.org or on Twitter: @KaraHackett. – See more at blogs.spjnetwork.org/foi

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