Save This For the Next Times Someone Argues Against Making Autopsy Reports Public…

It’s sometimes ghastly, but the public needs access because stuff like this can happen, and does:

Detroit police and EMS workers said Leslie Brooks died of natural causes during the weekend. But when his body arrived at a funeral home, the mortician saw it differently.

As she prepared to embalm the 59-year-old Brooks on Saturday morning, mortician Gail Washington peered at a small burned area on his skin, right above his heart. Her assistants had pointed it out, and Washington now agreed: This was no natural death.

Brooks had a small-caliber gunshot wound in his chest. And now Detroit police are scrambling to figure out what happened.

That may be tough, since their initial determination ruined a possible crime scene in the east-side basement where Brooks was found. Police technicians did not scour the room or take photos until later. There was no immediate preservation of possible clues. Visitors tracked in and out. His family took Brooks’ cell phone. And, unless this was a suicide, a killer had precious hours to elude capture.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Missouri National Guard Releases Looting Records from Joplin Tornado

The Missouri National Guard has released records confirming that four soldiers were disciplined for taking merchandise from the ruins of a Wal-Mart store in Joplin one day after the tornado that devastated the city a year ago.

The names of the soldiers were redacted from the records released to the Globe by the Guard on Tuesday. They are identified only as three specialists and a sergeant who were part of a team of 16 soldiers assigned to look for survivors and assist in recovery operations on May 23, 2011, at the Wal-Mart store at 1501 S. Range Line Road.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that the Guard did not respond to an open-records request for details about purported post-tornado looting by Guard members.

Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, commander of the 35th Engineer Brigade, had acknowledged that members of his unit took items after the tornado that claimed 161 lives and wiped out thousands of homes and businesses in Joplin. But Alewel had not provided any further details.

While the Guard is exempted from the Missouri Sunshine Law, Maj. Tammy Spicer said last week that the Guard seeks to provide “the maximum amount of information allowed under the laws that we follow.”

The 13 pages of memorandums released Tuesday reveal that an internal investigation determined that the soldiers took merchandise under the impression that it was going to be discarded by Wal-Mart.

Two specialists took hand-held Nintendo video game players valued at $138 and $169, according to the memos. A third specialist took a Kodak Easyshare camera priced at about $115. The sergeant took a notebook-size Nintendo video game player, some Xbox games and a headset, with an estimated combined retail value of $354.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pennsylvania Supremes Orders Release of Bids Held By Contractor

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled yesterday that records of a private entity acting on behalf of a public agency may be subject to the state’s open records laws.

In its ruling, the court interpreted a provision of the Right-to-Know Law under which some records of a party that has a contract with a government agency to perform a “governmental function” become public. Scranton Times Tribune reporter Gretchen Wintermantel filed an open records request with the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority seeking contract bids for concessions stands at PNC Field stadium.

The reporter was concerned when SWB Yankees, LLC, which is owned by the New York Yankees, solicited bids from concessions vendors but ending up entering a contract with another company also owned by the New York Yankees. SWB Yankees, a private minor league baseball operation company, manages the stadium and pays the authority an annual fee for using the stadium.

The Authority denied the request, arguing that SWB Yankees was not “contracted to perform a governmental function on behalf of the agency,” and therefore the information was not a public record of the Authority.

In determining whether the records could be subject to the law, the court adopted a so-called “non-ancillary test,” under which it considered whether the contractor was performing one of the “essential governmental functions” of the Authority on its behalf.

More here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tons of Media Groups Join Judicial Watch Efforts to Open White House Visitors’ Logs

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that major mainstream media outlets and open government organizations have joined its legal campaign against the Obama Secret Service to force the release of White House visitor logs. On August 17, Obama-appointed federal Judge Beryl Howell ruled against the Obama administration that Secret Service White House visitor logs are agency records that are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Obama administration appealed that decision and the lawsuit is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service (No. 11-5282)).

Among the organizations joining amicus briefs filed in Judicial Watch’s litigation are:  Bloomberg, L.P.; CBS Broadcast Inc.; Dow Jones & Company Inc.; Gannett, Co. Inc.; The McClatchy Company; The National Association of Broadcasters; National Freedom of Information Coalition; National Public Radio; The Newspaper Guild; The Radio Television Digital News Association; The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; The Washington Post; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Openthegovernment.org; Electronic Frontier Foundation; and the Project on Government Oversight.

Nevada Poll Shows Strong Support for Open Government

There’s strong support among Nevada political candidates to require regular reporting by lobbyists of how much they spend wining, dining and schmoozing state lawmakers, according to a new survey released Wednesday.

The survey conducted by the Nevada Policy Research Institute and the Nevada Press Association also found that many favor penalties for public record law violations and making the Legislature subject to Nevada’s open meeting law.

It also asked if the public should be given 72 hours to review a bill before a vote is taken; if local government union negotiations should be conducted under the open meeting law; and whether the respondent would sponsor legislation dealing with any of those issues.

“Nevada’s citizens have a fundamental right to know how their government is operating and how their elected officials are spending money,” Andy Matthews, NPRI president, said. “Nevadans from across the political spectrum are demanding more transparency from their state and local governments, and this survey is a chance for citizens to examine the beliefs of those who are _ and those who want to be _ elected officials.”

Federal Judge: Release Those Guantanamo Videos!

A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to turn over to the court three video recordings showing Guantanamo prisoners being forced out of their cells.

U.S. District Court Judge John Bates’s unusual order came Wednesday in

Guantanamo jog

Guantanamo jog (Photo credit: The U.S. Army)

a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by families of Kuwaiti prisoners being held at the U.S. military-run prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Bates said the Pentagon, which is represented in the case by the Justice Department, had failed to offer detailed enough explanations to sustain the government’s position that the videos are exempt from disclosure under the law.

Bates suggested he’d lost patience with the government in the case, noting that he’d given the Defense Department three chances to explain its position but that officials repeatedly offered “inconsistent and confusing” explanations.

Enhanced by Zemanta

FOI At Work: Documents Show Administration Coddling Filmmakers

Film director Kathryn Bigelow after a showing ...

Film director Kathryn Bigelow after a showing of her film The Hurt Locker, 2009 Seattle International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This has all the makings of a TV movie

In the months after the U.S. military mission that killed Osama bin LadenPentagon officials met with Hollywood filmmakers and gave them special access in an effort to influence the creation of a film about the operation, newly released documents show.

Emails and meeting transcripts obtained from the Pentagon and CIA through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the watchdog group Judicial Watch suggest that officials went out of their way to assist the filmmakers, while trying to avoid the public learning of their cooperation.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who won Oscars for their 2009 Iraq war movie, “The Hurt Locker,” were granted access to a Navy SEAL who was involved in planning the May 2011 raid, according to a transcript of a meeting that took place in July.

“The only thing we ask is that you not reveal his name in any way as a consultant because … he shouldn’t be talking out of school,” Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers told the filmmakers. Vickers later added: “This at least gives him one step removed and he knows what he can and can’t say, but this way at least he can be as open as he can with you and it ought to meet your needs.”

The name of the “planner, SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander,” was redacted from the documents that were provided to Judicial Watch. A Pentagon spokesman told Politico that the identity of “a planner, not a member of SEAL Team 6,” was provided “as a possible point of contact for additional information if the DoD determined that additional support was merited.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

Broadcast Industry, Channeling Their Demons, Fights Transparency

Wow. Just wow. Recall how the great leveler in the wake of Citizens United was supposed to be the transparency of political spending? Well, not so much…

The National Association of Broadcasters is asking a federal appeals court to block a rulepassed by the Federal Communications Commission last month requiring TV stations to post political ad data on the Internet.

In a petition for review filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., the broadcast industry group argues that the rule is “arbitrary, capricious, in excess of the Commission’s statutory authority inconsistent with the First Amendment, and otherwise not in accordance with law.”

The association represents, among others, the parent companies of NBC, CBS, Fox and the broadcasting arm of the Washington Post.

TV stations have long been required to keep detailed information about who buys political ads, how much they paid, and when spots run. But the information is currently kept only on paper at stations. The FCC’s new rule, which has not yet gone into effect, would require stations to post the information to a new government website.

Enhanced by Zemanta

In Kansas, the Cops Say “Trust Us…”

Not even a high-profile incident like an FBI investigation into police ticket-fixing will prompt Kansas lawmakers to let a little sunlight into police misconduct investigations. No state in the country rivals the secrecy of Kansas when it comes to the police investigating their own…

Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib said the recent FBI investigation into a traffic ticket-fixing scheme and the removal of two high-ranking Lawrence police officers does not necessitate more transparency in police misconduct cases.

“We act appropriately and hold people accountable,” Khatib said.

For the past two years, the Lawrence Journal-World has requested the full reports for misconduct complaints against members of the Lawrence Police Department. The department has denied those requests, citing a personnel exemption in the Kansas open records law. However, police have furnished brief case summaries indicating which complaints were sustained.

Take our word for it, they say, and good taxpayers everywhere groan…

Missouri AG Releases Dome Plans

Kudos to Missouri’s AG for doing the right thing!

Attorney General Chris Koster released the Rams’ proposal for upgrading the Edward Jones Dome in compliance with Sunshine Law requests to the state of Missouri.

Koster had announced May 7 that the state would release the documents today unless a judge said the records should remain closed. Since May 7, no representative of any party to the negotiations has attempted to articulate an exception to Missouri’s Sunshine Law, and thus the documents are being released.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 433 other followers