Transparency Watch

Kansas AG: Private emails on public topics protected

Kansas’ attorney general said Tuesday that emails sent by state employees through private accounts aren’t public record, even when they deal with public business.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt was responding to a question from state Sen. Anthony Hensley about whether such an email would constitute public record. Schmidt, who interpreted "private email" to be an email sent not only through a private account but also on a private device, replied: "In short, we think the answer is 'no.'"

Schmidt had already established in a different opinion that emails in the possession of public agencies are open records, his opinion ...

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Federal agencies fail FOIA test conducted by Syracuse University

If you report on the government, it may not surprise you to read that only seven of the 21 federal agencies recently FOIAed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) have provided records more than two months after the requests went out.

TRAC, a research center that administers the FOIA Project out of Syracuse University, has been trying to gather information on FOIA backlogs and processing times. In late January TRAC sent identical records requests to a group of federal agencies – including the CIA, FBI, Bureau of Prisons, several divisions of the Department of Justice and many others.

To ...

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Lack of protocol revealed in Oklahoma execution

Following the April 29th execution of Clayton Lockett, the Tulsa World, along with legal representation from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma. On Friday, more than 5,000 pages of interview transcripts and other records were released.

The transcripts include about 100 interviews the Department of Public Safety conducted with witnesses during its investigation into Lockett's execution. However, some of the records are heavily redacted without explanation from the DPS.

A hearing in the World's lawsuit is set for March 27 in Oklahoma County District Court.

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OMB to release largest index of government data in the world

By Matt Rumsey, Sunlight Foundation

On Feb. 6, the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to the Sunlight Foundation explaining how it planned to comply with our FOIA request for Enterprise Data Inventories. These inventories are compiled by 24 federal agencies as part of President Barack Obama’s 2013 open data executive order.

The release, which we believe will represent the largest index of government data in the world, is not just important for open government advocates. It’s important for journalists, researchers and more.

President Obama has made opening government data a priority throughout his term, but ...

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Senator puts hold on widely supported FOIA bill

A bill designed to improve the way the federal government handles an increasing load of FOIA requests – a bill that had gained bipartisan support – could be dying after a senator blocked the legislation.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 would "create a pathway for the federal government to modernize the administration of FOIA" and "codify the 'presumption of openness' into law," among other changes detailed in a post by Alexander Howard on PBS’ MediaShift.

Retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia on Thursday placed a hold on the bill. He released a short statement on his decision Friday, saying that ...

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University of Oklahoma releases parking tickets after student newspaper joins suit

A decision by the student newspaper at the University of Oklahoma to join its staffer’s lawsuit against the school caused officials to reverse course on their original decision to withhold parking ticket citations.

OU Daily staff member Joey Stipek had filed the suit in May 2013 after his open records requests for parking tickets was denied on the grounds that the citations were protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

Last week, the Daily published an editorial backing Stipek and declaring that the newspaper is joining the lawsuit. OU President David Boren soon after issued ...

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Ferguson no-fly zone aimed at media

The no-fly zone in place during August’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri, was enacted to keep the media from shooting overhead footage from helicopters, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The AP got its hands on audio recordings of conversations between the Federal Aviation Administration and local police officials. In the recordings, local authorities admit that the no-fly zone, billed as a measure to ensure the public’s safety, was in fact aimed at boxing out news media.

Police have claimed the 37 square miles of space was restricted in response to shots fired at a police helicopter ...

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New York newspaper asks judge to force release of license plate data

The Democrat & Chronicle is fighting a county’s denial to provide license plate information about seven newspaper employees and a couple government-owned vehicles, the paper reports.

The Rochester, New York-based paper has reported that Monroe County is indiscriminately amassing license-plate information from high-speed cameras. During the summer, a reporter filed a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain the records about his own license plate and that of six colleagues and two government vehicles.

County officials denied the request because, they said, a release of the data could violate personal privacy or interfere with a law enforcement investigation. The paper ...

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Judge lifts court order against Ala. newspaper

An Alabama judge has lifted a temporary restraining order banning the Montgomery Advertiser from publishing public documents it obtained from a gas company.

The newspaper had obtained, through an open records request to the state’s Public Service Commission, a copy of Alabama Gas Corp.’s Integrity Management Plan, which contained information about the age and condition of gas pipes in communities such as Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma.

Alagasco argued that publishing the location of the pipes raised the risk for terrorism. Judge Robert Vance originally agreed but, in lifting his restraining order, wrote that “while such possibilities might exist ...

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Judge blocks Alabama newspaper from printing information obtained through open records request

A state court judge has temporarily blocked the Montgomery Advertiser from publishing information about a utility company’s plan for gas line safety, information obtained through an open records request.

Alagasco says the Distribution Integrity Management Plan, released to the newspaper by the Alabama Public Service Commission, contains proprietary and safety-related information that could jeopardize public safety, according to the Associated Press.

The Advertiser says the court ruling is a case of unconstitutional prior restraint. The Gannett-owned paper asked for the plan as part of an extensive pipe safety project by USA TODAY.

A hearing will take place Monday to ...

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