Must read FOI stories – 6/13/14
- City of Gainesville in Florida opens up its City Commissioners’ emails, making the documents available via an online database with no need for a FOIA request.
- Alaskan Dispatch asks Governor Sean Parnell to veto a new bill that would “impose unprecedented restrictions on Alaskans’ access to public records” by making court records secret. The op-ed says the bill will cause information already in the public domain to become confidential.
- Shane Bauer, a reporter for Mother Jones, wants to know: What did my government do when I was taken hostage in Iran? Bauer filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI, CIA, and State Department to release records that will show how it dealt with his — and other journalists’ — imprisonment.
- A new bill in North Carolina seeks to remove the requirements that require charter schools to comply with open records and open meetings laws.
- A Circuit Court Judge will decide on whether text messages exchanged between government officials need to be released under FOIA in a lawsuit filed by PETA. The first defense the city of Norfolk, Virginia, offered was that its public employees don’t save their messages, then it said there was no way of retrieving them. Maybe their next excuse will be, “The dog ate ‘em.”
- Cayman Islands legislator says trying to get answers about the government’s open records process is like “climbing a lime tree backwards.” Also wonders if information managers are trained to delay.
- Wisconsin Judge orders the release of records previously protected by a secrecy order. The documents are related to an investigation into the governor’s aides, which led to the convictions of six individuals including two Gov. Walker aides, an appointee and a major campaign contributor.
- A Tennessee appeals court listened to arguments in the legal dispute over records access in the Vanderbilt University rape case, which led to charges against four former football players.
- Newspaper fought to “touch” public records related to a college dean’s sexual harassment claim against a female provost he claims inappropriately “touched” him for years.
- Remember that Michigan bill that would keep gun records confidential and exempt from open records? It’s heading to the governor’s desk for signature.
- Delaware bill seeks to end the public records exemptions of the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. The two schools have successfully evaded open records requests for years.
- According to FOIA documents, the U.S. Army profiled nonviolent protesters, classifying them as terror threats to FBI and police in multiple states, to “deliberately disrupt planned protests and prevent activists from exercising their First Amendment rights.”
- FOI advocacy groups want to close loop holes in FOIA regulations. Advocates say “agencies lack penalties for withholding information, overuse exemptions provided within FOIA and deal inconsistently and unfairly toward requesters.”
- After 10,000 requests, MuckRock files FOIA lawsuit against the CIA. You can read all about in their editorial, “Why we’re suing the CIA.”
- The Salinas Police Department is refusing to release names of officers involved in fatal shootings of suspects. And I thought the California Supreme Court just ruled “names should generally be public” (oh, right, they did).
- FOIA request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveals FBI’s Next Generation Identification facial recognition program will consist of a database of more than 52 million pictures. FBI Director says he doesn’t think the agency will spy on Americans with it. (Apparently he missed the memo from the NSA.)
- Chicago Police Department is being sued for failing to provide Stingray surveillance records. Let’s hope that the U.S. Marshals don’t swoop in and snag the files like they did in Florida.
- How a FOIA request may yield “more comprehensive results” than a subpoena.
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management is being sued by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a public land advocacy group, to release public documents on the agency’s handling of the armed standoff with Southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
- A test of Ohio’s response to open records requests shows that they are better than they were 10 years ago. So that’s nice.
David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ, reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick