Posts Tagged ‘Office of Open Records’


FOI Daily Dose: Open government strides in Lone Star State, stampers in Pennsylvania

Lawmakers in Texas passed a series of bills this week to protect reporters and promote open government. One of the most notable is Senate Bill 1368 (an update to the Texas Public Information Act) that keeps public officials from concealing official matters of business by corresponding over private email accounts and other electronic communications.

Such legislation would help reporters at the San Antonio Express-News who are trying to obtain emails that Texas County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson sent to constituents from his private email account regarding official business.

The Express-News won at trial court last fall, but Adkisson appealed to a state appellate court, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which has supported the Express-News, arguing the emails should be disclosed.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to approve the proposed legislation.

But despite strides in the Lone Star State, the fight for access to information rages on in Pennsylvania, where the state Department of Environmental Protection is withholding answers about how its extensive natural gas drilling is affecting water contamination in residential wells.

Researchers, reporters, scientists and residents all have a stake in the matter, but the agency says their open records requests are “burdensome.” DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday told NBC10 Philadelphia that the agency receives 1,200 right-to-know requests each year, some of which are too “broadly worded.”

But since the DEP lost an open records case last year against the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Office of Open Records and the Commonwealth Court  have criticized it for poor record keeping.

Sunday, the DEP spokesman, told NBC10 the agency’s records are not incomplete and disorganized, and the DEP “continues to operate with the utmost transparency.”

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.

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