I Have a Feeling…that Rep. Issa is About to Experience the Waiting Game

Darrell Issa
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The Associated Press reports that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wants to get the documents to determine just how well the Obama administration is faring in its transparency effort. The committee is looking for lists of who sought federal documents and what happened to their requests.

Agencies have until Feb. 15 to respond to Issa’s demand. Meeting the deadline could involve a major data dump. AP reports that the Defense Department alone got more than 73,000 FOIA requests last year, and the Justice Department received almost 64,000.

 

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The Knight FOI Fund is SOOOOOOO Important!

A New York judge, ruling in a case supported by a Knight FOI Fund grant, has ordered disclosure of records sought by a Web publisher and a community activist regarding a volunteer fire company.

But in the same 13-page ruling, Warren County (NY) Supreme Court Judge David B. Krogmann held that many of the meetings of the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company are of a “social” or “private nature,” and are not subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law.

June Maxam, editor and publisher of the North Country Gazette, and Christine Hayes, a deputy zoning administrator and assistant assessor for the Town of Horicon, NY, who represented themselves in the lawsuit filed on Sept. 15, indicated that they planned to appeal the ruling.

Noting that they had represented themselves and therefore had no attorney bills, Judge Krogmann also declined to award the two women reimbursement for their legal fees and expenses.

As offset for the fee reimbursements Maxam and Hayes had sought, Krogmann ordered that copying charges for the records being sought be waived. Maxam disputes the judge’s finding that she and Hayes incurred no legal bills.

Open government advocates expressed dismay over portions of the ruling, although Maxam and Hayes will be getting the records that were at the heart of the legal case after Krogmann completes an in camera judicial review to allow redaction of exempt, personal or private information.

“If they choose to appeal as they say they will, I hope some member of the New York bar who believes in open government will step forward and aid these petitioners in their important legal battle,” said Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC).

 

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This Idea Comes Out of the Swamp Every Year, Like Jason in That Horror Movie…

Lewis County (Washington) officials are supporting a bill that would cut down on the time spent fulfilling expansive public records requests and aid them in recouping money spent doing so.

New legislation, SB 5088 and HB 1300, would give municipalities and government agencies the option to charge labor costs for personnel after five hours in a given month have been dedicated to fulfilling a person’s request for public documents. If the requester doesn’t want to pay, the agency will complete the work within the allotted five hours the next month.

 

I Like All the FOI Improvement Bills I am Seeing!

A bill setting a time limit for government groups and other public bodies to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests is headed for the state Senate after passing the House unanimously Tuesday night.

House Bill 5, sponsored by Dover Democrat Brad Bennett, would require FOIA requests be granted within 15 business days, unless the request is for large amounts of information, requires legal advice, or the records involved are in storage.

If the deadline is extended, the government agency involved has to tell whoever made the request about the extension within 15 business days.

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An Update to the Charlotte Observer request…

They dropped it, citing the uproar….I am glad. These non-journalistic flights of fancy promise more blowback to FOI than scrutiny of government.

 

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In Hawaii, a Push To Make Government Salaries…secret?

Last year, Civil Beat shared the names and salaries of thousands of public sector employees. This year, the state government is working to make sure that such sharing never happens again.

A bill introduced Friday would make private names and other data currently part of the public record. That data is public under the state’s open records law — the Uniform Information Practices Act.

“I’m not saying the public shouldn’t know … but public employees should not be subject to exposure any more than the private sector,” said Sen. Pohai Ryan, Senate Bill 624‘s primary introducer. She cited potential identity theft and the right to privacy as her rationale for the proposal. “They should not be second-class citizens.”

 

They Didn’t Ask for Paper….

The Anniston City Council today plans to discuss taking legal action to collect $1,855.40 from The Anniston Star for open records the newspaper requested, but never received in the form requested.

“If the Council is playing games, we’ll take their pointed jab in good spirit,” Star publisher Brandt Ayers said. “However, on substance, there is no debt; nothing in the law or common sense requires us to pay for something that we specifically and repeatedly said we did not want.”

The Star made a written request on Jan. 14, 2010, for e-mails sent by Councilmen Ben Little, Herbert Palmore, John Spain and David Dawson as well as Mayor Gene Robinson over the last three months of 2009. The request specified the documents be sent electronically to Gmail.com accounts set up to receive them.

“We do NOT request printouts of the material,” the request specified.

In February 2010, city manager Don Hoyt delivered to Star editor Bob Davis, who made the request, more than 800 pages of printed and redacted e-mails along with a bill for $1,855.40. Broken down, that bill includes a 50-cent-per-copy fee for 344 pages from an undated earlier invoice, a fee for $10 an hour plus 5 cents per copy for 818 pages of e-mails, $768 for the Hoyt’s time, $412 for legal fees, and $262.50 for services of the city’s Internet provider.

Read more:Anniston Star – Anniston council would charge newspaper 1 855 for public records

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