I Think It Was H.L. Mencken Who Said “Governments Lie.”

It’s an FOI request that serves as a perfect example of why we need access to the very documents at issue in Utah….amazingly, what was cited again and again by the lords of darkness was, at best, “an estimate.”

This fabulous story had me laughing out loud —

As Utah lawmakers argued why they needed the now-repealed HB477 to shield more records from public release, leaders repeatedly said their staffers had been swamped by records requests in 2010 and spent more than 400 hours filling them.

But an open-records request from The Salt Lake Tribune shows the Legislature can produce no records to substantiate that claim, and attorneys now say it was an estimate. Related records that do exist suggest that the estimate may have been high.

Also during debates, lawmakers worried aloud that the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) could force disclosure of their personal emails or texts.

However, the documents obtained by The Tribune show that whenever such records were requested recently, the Legislature denied them, saying they were not public under GRAMA (without changes sought by HB477).


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A Few Tidbits of Openness On a Sunday….

A nice Sunshine Week column in the Salt Lake Tribune provides an interesting perspective by comparing the writer’s experience with the state’s pre-HB477 law with California’s…

The Cape Code Times launches its Sunshine Week coverage with a great little local audit:

A review by the Cape Cod Times shows compliance with the Massachusetts Public Records Law varies from town to town and, in some cases, from department to department within a town hall.

And don’t get through the day without reading this fabulous column in the Times on how data — and access to it — can improve all of our lives! This is SUCH an important point. When people want to hide data, we need to remind them every time that they are squelching the innovation that made our country great. And we should remind people, over and over, that this data is OURS.

National experts in public records law say the disparity in access is common.

The Times sent four reporters, posing as average citizens, to eight Cape towns on March 3, to see how they would be treated in their pursuit of public documents. They requested one day of the police log, a list of delinquent personal property taxpayers, the school superintendent’s contract and one month’s worth of correspondence — both letters and e-mails — sent to selectmen and town councilors.

And don’t miss this great piece in the Times today on the unpredictable uses of government data in the private sector. The point made here is well worth repeating to the lords of darkness: access can lead to new discoveries, new applications, better technology!

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