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

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)

Enhanced by Zemanta

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…

Enhanced by Zemanta

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…

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta