Nebraska Lt. Gov. Resigns in Wake of FOI-driven news…

Wow. This is a really obvious example of why transparency of things like taxpayer-funded cell phones is an important thing:

Rick Sheehy’s long, late-night cell phone calls most often were directed at two former elected officials, both widely known in their communities.

An investigation by The World-Herald found that Sheehy’s most recent flurry of calls was directed at Michele Ehresman, the former head of the Holdrege Chamber of Commerce and a former school board president there.

Ehresman, 40, who was recently divorced, did not respond to numerous requests for an interview in recent days…

An investigation by The World-Herald discovered that Sheehy made 2,300 late-night telephone calls to the women on his state-issued cellphone, many of them long conversations held in the wee hours of the night.

Many of Sheehy’s long conversations with the women were held late at night or in the early morning hours. Sometimes, he would call more than one woman a night, sometimes three different women.

NY gun records draw lawsuit by NYT reporters…back in 2010

Gawker moved the story forward yet again, publishing a list of gun permit holders in New York City.

In the Gawker piece, the author writes that the list he got “contains only the names, and not the addresses, of the licensees,” and though he argued that both were supposed to be public information based on Article 400 of the Penal Code, that the “only way to get the associated addresses from the NYPD, as the law requires, would be to take them to court, which no one has apparently done.”

And as this post at capitalnewyork.com helpfully points out, actually someone has.

Though the New York Times hasn’t acknowledged as much in its coverage of the issue, in 2010, three New York Times reporters sued the New York Police Department over what it described as the department’s failure to comply with state law requiring public access to information, including the addresses of gun-permit holders in New York City.

“We’ve become increasingly concerned over the last two years about a growing lack of transparency at the N.Y.P.D.,” David McCraw, a lawyer for the newspaper, said at the time. “Information that was once released is now withheld. Disclosures that could be made quickly are put on hold for months.”

Among the reporters who filed suit was Jo Craven McGinty.

According to the lawsuit, in May of 2010, McGinty filed a Freedom of Information Law request for an electronic copy of the database containing names and addresses of all gun permit holders who live in New York City.

The NYPD gave her the names, too, but refused to give her the accompanying addresses, arguing that doing so might endanger the life or safety of permit-holders.

In court, the police department also argued that the law allowed it to withhold the addresses if it believed that they would be used for fund-raising or commercial purposes.

McGinty went on to submit an affidavit affirming that she did not intend to use the names or addresses for solicitation or fund-raising purposes, nor would she give the information to anyone with that intention.

The judge argued that others could use the published data for those purposes if it were published, which complicated the issue; ultimately, she ruled that the list should be released to the Times, but that some redactions could be allowed:

Inasmuch as the Times could not control the use to which others might put the addresses requested from the NYPD, were the Times to place them on the Internet, Ms. McGinty‘s affidavit, in effect, bars the Times from putting the addresses on line. Accordingly, the Times is entitled to have the residential addresses of gun licensees in searchable electronic form, as already redacted to delete the names and addresses of retired law enforcement officers and several current or former civilian government employees. Petitioners have not opposed such redaction.

The NYPD appealed the verdict, and the case was argued before the appellate division in May, and is awaiting a decision. If another decision comes down against the NYPD, it’s likely to go to the Court of Appeals.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Text messages peel back the curtain on key vote: FOI at Work

A nice piece of FOI work, unveiling text messages flying back and forth as power brokers in Orange County, FL shot down a proposed sick pay provision…

New details emerged Wednesday in a WESH 2 News investigation of text messaging by Orange County commissioners during that key vote on a sick pay ballot measure.

The measure was defeated Sept. 11, but only now are some of the messages between elected leaders and the powerful lobbyists who apparently shot down the initiative being released.

The measure would have required businesses with more than 15 workers to offer paid sick time to all employees. The group gathered a petition to put the

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

measure on the November ballot.

The messages show there were ongoing discussions before and during the public hearing on the sick pay referendum.

WESH also provided a nice blow-by-blow account of the text message traffic here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Utah Highway Patrol Violations: A Nice FOI request…

Mizzou alum Nate Carlisle at it again

Utah Highway Patrol Ford Mustang GT: Greenligh...

Utah Highway Patrol Ford Mustang GT: Greenlight Hot Pursuit Diecast (Photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix)

:

Utah Highway Patrol troopers committed 82 serious violations of policy or state law during three years, according to statistics released by UHP.

UHP found lesser policy violations in 41 other cases. The agency provided the data on Dec. 5, months after The Salt Lake Tribune requested it.

The data cover the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 and represent complaints filed against troopers by the public or colleagues. UHP divides complaints into two categories: Serious violations of policy or state law are called Category I complaints. The lesser cases are called Category II.

The statistics do not specify the transgressions, although a few episodes have been reported over the years.

In 2010, UHP Cpl. Lisa Steed was issued a letter of reprimand for removing her microphone while having a suspect perform a field sobriety test. UHP spokesman Dwayne Baird said that was one of the Category II complaints.

UHP has about 425 troopers. UHP and the Salt Lake City Police Department run neck and neck as the two largest police forces in the state.

The UHP statistics show that the majority of complaints against troopers are found to be without merit. That’s typical for police forces across the country.

Enhanced by Zemanta

FOI at Work: School Bus Crashes in NY

Nice little FOI request:

New York City school buses were involved in 1,700 accidents last year — an average of nearly five per day, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

The accidents — all of which were caused by the public school bus drivers, Department of Education records show — resulted in more than 900 injuries, according to safety records obtained through the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

The revelation follows a slew of bus crashes involving special-needs students across the city.

But the DOE would not disclose how many of those injured last year were special-needs students, because it does not keep track of what type of buses are involved in crashes.

Nor does the DOE keep records of how many of the injured were students and how many were other passengers, pedestrians or drivers, DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.

Feinberg said that any accident involving a school bus is “concerning.”

“We treat all accidents of equal importance and are constantly working on improving our vendors’ accident-reduction practices,” she said.

The records also reveal a troubling pattern about relative bus contractor safety, as some contractors log far more accidents than others, regardless of the amount of routes they drive. The city currently contracts with more than 50 different private bus companies who bid on particular travel routes.

A school bus photographed in New York, New Yor...

A school bus photographed in New York, New York. Bus is a 2000-2001 Carpenter Classic 2000 body with an International 3800 chassis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121210/new-york-city/citys-public-school-buses-were-involved-1700-accidents-last-year#ixzz2FTLCnRX0

Enhanced by Zemanta

FOI at work: Wisconsin coach was writing love notes to Arkansas AD long before hire…

A shrewd use of FOI in Arkansas

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

demonstrates, once again, the power of public records on the sports beat…

Strange as it seems, the nuances of the Freedom of Information Act have loomed improbably large lately over Arkansas football, having played a key role in fanning the flames that lapped at both Houston Nutt and Bobby Petrino on their way out of town. Now, in the case of new head coach Bret Bielema, his first Fayetteveille FOIA might as well be a rite of initiation.

Unlike his predecessors, Bielema isn’t being pursued for scandal, but rather for a friendly note he wrote his new boss earlier this year – at least two months before the Razorbacks left the rest of the country gobsmacked last week by poaching the architect of back-to-back-to-back Big Ten championship teams at Wisconsin. According to documents released by the university, Bielema actually made contact with Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long in September, when he sent Long a handwritten note supporting his decision to fire Petrino after a motorcycle accident revealed an inappropriate relationship with an athletic department staffer. Reporters picked up the scent when Long mentioned the note from Bielema last week, and on Monday got their hands on the original…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Getting School Superintendent Contracts…And Doing An FOI Audit While You’re At It

What a great FOI twofer! The New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Torrington Register Citizen are working on gathering all school chief contracts for Connecticut in order to build a searchable database. They also decided to test the responsiveness of each district under FOI law…

From the lede story:

Amity was one of only two school districts in the state to charge a fee for a copy of the superintendent’s contract and require that the documents be picked up in person, a recent Freedom of Information test done by three daily newspapers shows.

About half of Connecticut’s 149 public school districts responded within 24 hours to the FOI request seeking copies of school superintendent contracts, including Branford, Cheshire, Hamden, Milford, Orange, North Haven and New Haven.

The New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen are gathering all school chief contracts for the state in order to build a searchable database. The publications decided to also test the responsiveness of each district under FOI law with the project.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act requires a response within four days, but this can be just a confirmation of receiving the request and an estimated time frame for when the documents will be provided. If no response is given by the fourth business day, it is automatically considered a denial and the requester may file a complaint with the state’s Freedom of Information Commission.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 434 other followers