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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. 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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Miss. Ethics Commission's first ruling favors openness

In first decision since it was created to "mediate disputes over open meetings and public records" rulings, the Mississippi Ethics Commission decided that a blogger was entitled to redacted police polices. The city attorney's office had denied James Hendrix's request for two initial police incident reports on the kidnapping of Elizabeth Hall and homicide of Heather Spencer, both on Sept. 11, 2007. Officials had argued that the documents were exempt from open records laws.
In its first ruling since gaining new authority, the Mississippi Ethics Commission has ruled a private citizen is entitled to redacted Jackson police initial incident reports involving George Bell III in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend.

"We came down on the side of openness," Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood said of the first advisory opinion in a records dispute.

In May, Gov. Haley Barbour signed the legislation into law, and it was later cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice giving the Ethics Commission authority to mediate disputes over open meetings and public records and issue rulings or opinions based on the law.

More here.

Read our blog post on the decision to create the ethics commission here.

4 comments:

Joseph said...

The blogger in the story above, Hendrix, posted links today to an editorial in the Jackson daily about the win and the Mississippi Ethics Commission's official written opinion.

Joseph said...

The Mississippi Press Assocation has weighed in on James Hendrix's efforts.

Charles N. Davis said...

Thanks! We can always use updates...

Joseph said...

Another paper here in Mississippi, The Greenwood Commonweath, comments:

The days when officials in Mississippi could get away routinely with defying the rights of citizens to see government documents and observe government meetings may be coming to a close.

There’s a new “sheriff” in town, empowered by a new state law that eliminates most of the financial leverage government officials formerly used to dissuade those who would challenge secrecy.

The new law got its first test last week, and it was a great success.

The Mississippi Ethics Commission, now empowered to mediate disputes over open meetings and open records, said that the Jackson Police Department erred when it declined to provide a citizen with copies of incident reports involving the separate crimes of kidnapping and murder committed last year by the son of a prominent Jackson family.

The Ethics Commission said that although police officials are free to redact information from the incident reports that would compromise an investigation, it had to provide the rest of the reports.