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)

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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.

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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…

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Bin Laden Burial at Sea Docs Released Thanks to FOIA

Internal emails among U.S. military officers indicate that no sailors watched Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson and traditional Islamic procedures were followed during the ceremony.

The emails, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily blacked out, but are the first public disclosure of government information about the Al Qaeda leader’s death. The emails were released last week by the Defense Department.

Bin Laden was killed May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One email stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer briefly describes how bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet and then placed in a weighted bag.

According to another message from the Vinson’s public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship’s leadership was informed of the burial.

“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed,” the May 2 email from Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette reads. “The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid. In a response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Vinson…

The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

The Defense Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid. One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind. People who lived near bin Laden’s compound took photos of the disabled chopper.

The AP is appealing the Defense Department’s decision. The CIA, which ran the bin Laden raid and has special legal authority to keep information from ever being made public, has not responded to AP’s request for records about the mission.

English: Osama bin Laden interviewed for Daily...

English: Osama bin Laden interviewed for Daily Pakistan in 1997; behind him on the wall is an AK-47 carbine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Overtime Records Always, Always Generate Stories!

Here is yet another:

Patients with serious mental illness are treated at the Capital District Psychiatric Center in Albany. It’s just one of the facilities run by the State Office of Mental Health, also known as “OMH.”

The agency regulates, certifies and oversees 4500 programs across New York, from suicide prevention to counseling. But as NewsChannel 13 learned, the employees that get all that done, rack up a lot of overtime.

Records we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show overtime expenses at OMH spiked nearly eight-million-dollars over the last two years, topping 82 million dollars…and taxpayers foot that bill.

Some of the agency’s employees made more than twice their base salary.

Just consider at what a secure care treatment aide at a Bronx OMH facility pulled down in overtime last year: nearly $116,000. That’s 240% over his base salary of $48,000.

Here in the Capital Region, a mental health therapy aide earned $88,000 in overtime on top of her annual salary of $43,000.

And a psychiatric nurse, earned nearly $80,000 in overtime over her base pay of nearly $56,000…

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Watch Heather Brooke’s TED Talk on the Parliament FOI Story…

OK, full disclosure: I am HUGE fan of Heather, having chatted with her often through the years about FOI stuff, so I HAD to pass this along!

If this doesn’t get you pumped up about the power of FOI to change the world, I don’t know what will! And best of all, you can then read an excerpt from her new book, The Revolution Will Be Digitised…

 

 

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A Great Records-Rich Story on a Tennessee Property Tax Soak

Memphis Commercial Appeal reporters Marc Perrusquia and Grant Smith (a former student!) just published a series that peels away the curtain to reveal a law originally intended to keep farmers from losing their farmland turned in to a cash cow for rich landowners.

From the first story:

An investigation by The Commercial Appeal and its sister publication, the Knoxville New-Sentinel, found Lightman and many other savvy property owners across Tennessee are reaping dramatic tax savings — often paying pennies on the dollar — because a 1976 law to prevent farmers from being taxed off their land is full of loopholes and timidly enforced by many of the state’s 95 assessors.The newspaper found more than half of the land in Tennessee — nearly 15 million acres — is enrolled in the program protecting farmland, the vast majority in rural counties where agriculture is the dominant industry. Yet, in urban areas the tax rolls evidence significant abuse — from wealthy estate owners living in mansions on huge tracts to real estate developers escaping much of their annual tax bills by declaring a woods a timber preserve, a manicured lawn a pasture, a future subdivision a farm. And, by all accounts, it’s legal.

It’s a great read, and without access to records, it’s not possible.

The Commercial Appeal

The Commercial Appeal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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How Many People Are Trapped in Elevators on Your Campus?

Here is a cool little FOI-driven story

elevator

elevator (Photo credit: Jose R. Borras)

from the student paper at the University of Texas-Arlington:

Brushing shoulder to shoulder, a group of eight Phi Mu Alpha fraternity members crammed into a Fine Arts Building elevator at 8 p.m. in October of last year. Hungry and matted with saturated sweat from marching band practice an hour earlier, the students talked about showering and going out for dinner.

Ding — The elevator passed the third floor. Suddenly, the elevator made an unfamiliar beeping noise, jerked slightly, tossing them, and then stopped.

Music education senior Andres Soto pressed the emergency button to call police and the dispatcher told him the bad news. The dispatcher estimated the men would have to wait about an hour before an elevator technician would arrive and open the doors, Soto said.

Their incident was inconvenient, Soto said. However, it’s not rare. Nearly 800 reports of people trapped in elevators were made between Jan. 1, 2002, and Aug. 26, 2012, according to open records obtained by The Shorthorn in August.

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