Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’


FOI update: Illinois city council text messages ruled public; exemption caught in Connecticut; help for Ugandan media

Text Messages, Emails are Public Records in Illinois

A city council member in Champaign, Ill., tried to withhold text and email messages between council members in response to a records request by local media. The council member claimed messages were exempt since they were sent from personal devices.  However, Sangmon County circuit court Judge John Schmidt ordered text and other electronic messages sent by the council to be turned over.

Exemption Caught in the Nick of Time in Connecticut

An exemption was proposed during a special legislative session in Connecticut that would allow the state to withold dealings with companies seeking financial assistance from the  state.

“This is as outrageous an assault on the public’s right to know as one could imagine,” said Matt DeRienzo

The exemption would exclude records between the state and companies looking to grow or move into Connecticut that request financial help from the state “…provided the disclosure of such records could adversely affect the financial interest of the state, the business or organization.” Media outlets and FOI advocates took issue with the broadly stated exemption, originally slated to pass during the June 12 legislative session.

“This is as outrageous an assault on the public’s right to know as one could imagine,” said Matt DeRienzo, group editor of Group Register Company’s Connecticut publications on a Connecticut Newsroom blog post.

However, as media outlets reacted to the overly broad wording of the bill, the government responded: The amendment was stricken from Tuesday’s special legislative  session.

Special Police Unit in Uganda

Uganda has created a special police unit to respond to abuses against media and journalists. The Press Unit comes at a much needed time for the country where there were 100 recorded cases of journalists being attacked in 2011.

“This development comes at a critical time when journalists in Uganda are starting to lose hope of getting justice for the numerous abuses and violations meted against them by both state and non-state actors,”  said Henry O. Maina, Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, ARTICLE 19 reported.

* The June 6 FOI FYI blog post mentioned various testimonies during the  House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform’s hearing on the lockout policies set forth by the Department of Labor. We failed to mention that Lucy Dalglish, while executive director of Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, was testifying on behalf of the Sunshine in Government InitiativeThe Sunshine in Government Initiative is a conglomerate of media groups, including the Society of Professionals Journalists, aimed at promoting government transparency.

SGI members (according to the SGI website):

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.

FOI DAILY DOSE: iPhone mishap for Dept. of Labor and consolidation criticism in Conn.

The U.S. Department of Labor got slapped with a FOIA lawsuit over documents related to, of all possible things, an iPhone application.

DOL used taxpayer funds to develop an app called DOL-Timesheet that helps employees keep track of their hours worked so they aren’t underpaid.

But the app is faulty. Workers can lose up to 65 hours of work time each year using it.

Americans for Limited Government filed a lawsuit for information on costs and for the app – information the DOL has yet to disclose.

Connecticut is facing its own freedom of information dilemma. Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to create an all-encompassing watchdog agency that would consolidate the state’s Freedom of Information Commission and oversight departments such as the Judicial Review Council.

The new Office of Governmental Accountability would be an umbrella for all watchdog actions, but an editorial in the Hartford Courant argues that this could compromise ethical responsibilities of the Commission.

While agencies could share office space, their staffs should remain independent, according to the editorial. The Commission should especially be kept out of the merger because it keeps all government agencies in check – even other watchdog departments.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

 

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