New Jersey Court: Hand Over E-Mails Detailing Facebook Donation

An Essex County judge today ordered Newark to turn over an itemized list of e-mails surrounding Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the city’s schools.

The order by Superior Court Judge Rachel Davidson is the latest chapter in an ongoing legal battle between the city and the ACLU of New Jersey, which is representing a community group trying to determine what conditions, if any, were attached to the grant, which was first announced in September 2010.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

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In a 22-page motion filed in October, the city’s lawyers tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that because the Zuckerberg money is administered by Foundation for Newark’s Future, a non-profit group, the city does not maintain records.

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Wyoming Legislature Passes Ultimate Lobbyist and Influence Peddling Privacy Act…

Wow…several states have flirted with passing laws this bad, but hey, Wyoming, way to go! You just manned up and went there, didn’t ya?

State lawmakers voted today to draft legislation that would make emails sent to members of city councils, school boards and other elected bodies exempt from public records law.

The legislation would keep out of public view any correspondence sent directly to members of elected bodies, as long as the documents aren’t sent to a majority of the group.

The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee also directed legislative staffers to add language that would exempt deliberative documents that are “integral parts of the decision-making process.”

Those additions prompted the Wyoming Press Association, which was part of a working group that suggested revisions to the state’s public records law, to immediately pull its support for the draft bill. The two exemptions were proposed by the Wyoming Association of Municipalities, and not the entire working group.

The draft public records bill includes several revisions supported by the press association. But the exemptions were too much to keep the group from splitting.

“That was more of a loss than we gained,” press association Director Jim Angell said after the vote.

The committee also directed legislative staff to draft a revised open meetings law. Those revisions are supported by the government groups and the press association.

Why is this a phenomenally, mind-achingly bad piece of legislation? Well, the most obvious reason is that no one is NOT a constituent, so long as you represent them, including, oh well, let me think: regulated industries, lobbyists, influence peddlers of every stripe…these “constituents” now have an untrammeled one-way walkie talkie called private e-mail for hitting up those lawmakers. Handy!

And of course, this FOI implosion also contains nifty language shielding from disclosure documents that are “”integral parts of the decision-making process.” Of course! Wo wants to know how decisions are made, and what factors might have led to them, and whether they were undue influences? That whole self-governance thing? Boooooring…..

This essentially marks the demise of any functional transparency in Wyoming.

CD

 

 

Want To See Romneycare E-Mails? Good Luck…

Governor Mitt Romney of MA

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A nice look at a time-honored headache: the governor’s e-mails…

For politicians, there is one time-tested method for thwarting public records requests: stall and stall and, when in doubt, stall.

This January, for instance, Alaskan officials finally responded to September 2008 requests for former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin’s emails, promising to release the files by the end of May 2011. By then the wait will have lasted longer than the time Palin spent in office.

If dragging out the release date proves ineffective, officials can also stall by requiring a pretty penny from the requester. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, before he announced his decision to not run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, tried to chargeMother Jones upwards of $60,000 for the privilege of viewing his emails and travel logs.

But Republican presidential nominee frontrunner Mitt Romney has a diametrically different, more ingenious approach to public records: the document dump.

In January 2007, as the onetime Massachusetts governor was leaving office — and preparing for his first presidential run — he and his staff were required by law to transfer much of their work product tostate archives. Romney’s administration responded by handing over materials measuring approximately 700 cubic feet. The boxes covered everything in his four-year term — from legislative documents to legal counseling to travel records.

If one wants to search out all of Romney’s emails on, say, health care reform, good luck finding anything. Not every document was necessarily put in order, nor even labeled.

The clincher:

“There’s no discrete series of emails,” he adds. “We didn’t take any electronic or digital files.” Romney’s emails were printed out and stuffed into cartons.

Finding and collating emails on any given subject means digging through hundreds of boxes. In fact, if you request the full file on the creation Romney’s state Health Connector, expect at least a very long delay. You might get those materials by 2016.

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Texas, Taking a Bit of A Different Take than Utah…

A Texas lawmaker wants to ban e-mails, text messages and Internet postings by city and state leaders when they are doing the public’s business.

A bill by Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi would amend the Texas Open Meetings Act. The proposal, H.B. 2977, says an official would be committing an offense if he or she transmits an electronic message during a public meeting.

The Austin American-Statesman reports, for today’s editions, that Hunter is considering how violators should be punished. Hunter also says the update is necessary for Texas to take the open-meetings law into the digital age.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports Hunter became involved in the issue after a spat during a city council meeting involving two members texting each other.

 

Austin Wrestles With E-Mail and FOI

The Austin American Statesman had an interesting piece on e-mail access:

Worried that Austin City Council members may not have turned over all of their emails, officials are bringing in city technology experts as they make a new attempt at complying with the state’s open records law.

Information technology workers are compiling the records — emails among council members and City Manager Marc Ott during the past 13 months — requested by the American-Statesman and other media, amid allegations that the city’s first release of records was incomplete.

The new effort has already triggered the release of more emails from Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who last week made public 75 more correspondences, some of which were from an “automatic archiving system,” officials said.