Utah Becomes A National Rallying Point for FOI….

My good buddy Joel Campbell gives us the scoop in the Salt Lake Tribune:

It may be a dubious honor, but Utah’s open-records fight has become a battle cry for open-government activists across the nation.

The Washington-based Sunlight Foundation delivered a petition Friday at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse signed by thousands of open-government activists to governors attending the National Governors Association meetings here.

They want to raise the profile of open government in every state. That’s important because it has become popular for politicians to promise open government on the campaign trail and then abandon the idea once in office.

Gabriela Schneider, the group’s communications director, said it was ironic that Salt Lake City is the site of the petition delivery since Utah lawmakers enacted and then rescinded HB477, which would have thrown up major roadblocks to government-records access. Gov. Gary Herbert is featured among the group’s poster children for open-government abuse, and images from HB477 protests are part of a video call to action.

“Over the last few months, Sunlight has observed a disturbing trend of states rolling back transparency of government information, clouding the ability of the public to see what their government and its officials are doing,” Schneider said,

Like the Sunlight Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also noted several governors who didn’t keep their campaign promises for open government. Included on the list are governors from Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.

ESPN Pulls the FOI Trigger Against Ohio State

Ohio State Buckeyes college football head coac...

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And now it gets really interesting…the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the details:

The tattoos for memorabilia scandal that has swept away former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel and ex-star quarterback Terrelle Pryor has now reached the state’s highest court in a public records showdown between OSU and ESPN.

The sports entertainment giant filed a lawsuit Monday with the Ohio Supreme Court claiming the university violated Ohio’s public records laws by failing to make available three different sets of public records sought by ESPN earlier this year. The lawsuit is essentially asking the state’s highest court to force OSU into releasing the records to ESPN.

One set of records involves e-mails, letters and memos from Tressel, OSU President Gordon Gee, OSU director of sports compliance officer Doug Archie and Athletics Director Gene Smith related to Pennsylvania businessman Ted Sarniak that ESPN requested on April 20.

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Ohio Supreme Court denies fee-seeker dough

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Following the lead of state lawmakers, the Ohio Supreme Court has forbidden the collection of damages for illegal destruction of public records when money, rather than access to records, is the main motivation in filing lawsuits.

A party is not “aggrieved” and entitled to damages when his or her objective is not to obtain records but to seek the cash penalties accompanying the destruction of public records, the justices ruled in an opinion released today.

The court’s ruling involves a case from New Philadelphia, where Timothy Rhodes filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $5 million in damages over the illegal destruction of old tape recordings of police dispatch calls between 1975 and 1995.

A jury refused to give Rhodes any money, finding he was not aggrieved because his primary interest was money, not gaining access to records. He also had sought old police and 911 tape recordings from other communities.

Hands Off the Smartphones, During the Public Meeting

Looking for a Facebook status update or email during the next big vote by the Royal Oak City Commission or Sterling Heights City Council? Don’t.

A handful of communities in southeastern Michigan are asking local lawmakers to keep their hands off their smartphones or iPads at council meetings, banning them from communicating electronically with each other or the public while government business is being conducted. That means emailing, blogging, texting or any other form of electronic communication is off limits.

Supporters say the issue is about transparency and integrity, not to mention common courtesy. They argue email or even text conversations could violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires decisions and most deliberations to be public.

“It’s about maintaining the integrity of this council and future councils,” said Maria Schmidt, a city councilwoman in Sterling Heights, which amended its council governing rules earlier this year to ban electronic communication during meetings.

But critics of the bans say technology helps these officials do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. They call the bans “short-sighted.”

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110706/METRO/107060351/Councils-ban-text–email-by-lawmakers-at-meetings#ixzz1RLUEC4CJ

FOIA is 45 Years Old….

This excellent look at the story behind the story of federal FOIA is a great read on Independence Day….