Editor's Note

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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System will go to court to try to keep pension benefit records secret

from Oregonlive.com:
Oregon's Public Employee Retirement System is going to court to try to overturn a decision by the state's top lawyer and keep the names and pension benefits of its best-paid retirees a secret.

The case spotlights a potential showdown between Attorney General John Kroger, who is pushing for more government transparency, and state agencies, which observers say had greater discretion to withhold information under Kroger's predecessor, Hardy Myers.

Earlier this month, Kroger released a report identifying shortfalls in Oregon's public records laws and agencies' compliance with them. Tony Green, a spokesman for Kroger, said the Department of Justice is preparing legislation "that will significantly overhaul the public records law to encourage greater transparency and greater public access to their government."
Read more here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NFOIC, partners, urge Congress not to limit access to critical NTSB info

from NFOIC and OpenTheGovernment.org:
Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations concerned with government openness and accountability, we are writing to urge you to not include in the final version of the National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization (NTSB) Act of 2010 (HR 4714, S 2768) two provisions in Section 3(d) of the Senate- passed version of the bill, S. 2768, that unduly limit the public’s ability to access critical information.

The Senate-passed bill would needlessly expand categories of information that may be withheld under exemption b(3) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for records related to ongoing Board investigations. There is no reason to offer the NTSB greater protection beyond the existing FOIA exemptions that provide protection for ongoing investigations, and represent a proper balancing of interests. Indeed, given the critical safety issues the NTSB investigates, the public’s interest should be paramount. We understand that NTSB has expressed concerns that fulfilling public requests for information takes time and resources. Expanding categories of information withhold-able under our oldest public disclosure law is not, however, an appropriate way to handle resource issues, and is not in the spirit of the law. House-passed version of the bill, HR 4714, contains no such expansion.
Read more here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Delaware Public Service Commission proposes new rules for info requests

from delawareonline:
Anyone seeking documents from the Delaware Public Service Commission should prepare to ask for them the old-fashioned way -- and pay for them.

David L. Bonar, the PSC ombudsman, said the changes are needed because people have dashed off information requests through e-mail, resulting in a large use of staff time. The proposal would require people to put in some thought and consideration, rather than "in a moment of anger, sending us requests for volumes of information," Bonar said.
Read more here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oregon attorney general suggests government transparency reforms

from the Portland Business Journal:
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger on Thursday released a Government Transparency Report that highlights problems with the state's public records and public meetings laws and offers remedies.

The 16-page report is based on hundreds of comments collected in six public meetings across Oregon.

Read more from the Business Journal here, and view the full report available from the NFOIC site.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Washington state high court rules metadata are public records

from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
The Washington Supreme Court upheld Thursday an appellate court’s ruling that metadata -- information related to the history, tracking or management of an electronic document -- is a public record subject to disclosure under the state Public Records Act.
The ruling involved a 2006 case in which Shoreline, Wash., resident Beth O’Neill sued under the Public Records Act to obtain metadata detailing the senders and recipients of a string of e-mails sent to Shoreline Deputy Mayor Maggie Fimia that accused the city council of being “dysfunctional.”


In writing for the majority, Justice Susan Owens stated: "Metadata may contain information that relates to the conduct of government and is important for the public to know. It could conceivably include information about whether a document was altered, what time a document was created, or who sent a document to whom."
Read more here.