In South Carolina, They Want to Give ‘Discretion’ to Law Enforcement…

Yeah, I wonder how this would work out?

Raising the hackles of watchdogs throughout the state, Rep. Chris Murphy of Summerville has proposed amendments to the state’s Freedom of Information Act statute “to protect the integrity of the criminal trial process” and to bring it in line with federal and neighboring state laws.

The amendment, concerned primarily with law enforcement, was introduced Feb. 7 and currently sits in the House judiciary committee. The original law was passed in 1976.

Here is what the amendment does:

  • Adds “Information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action or criminal prosecution” to the list of items that may be exempt.
  • Removes the word “relationships” and rewrites a section as: “Correspondence or work products of prosecutors or other legal counsel for a public body and any other material that would violate attorney-client privileges or undermine the open communication among victims, law enforcement, and prosecutors.”

South Carolina Bill Would Make it Easier, Cheaper to Get Public Records

A bill sponsored by S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, would make it cheaper and faster for citizens to get copies of public documents using the state Freedom of Information Act, officials from the S.C. Press Association said.

The measure passed out of a House subcommittee Wednesday morning,

“We’ve heard from numerous people, and legislators have their own problems with this,” Taylor said. “This would bring some peace to the law. We are urging in the legislation that governments would be entitled to supply the information electronically when they can.”

Some government agencies throw up barriers to FOI requests, Taylor said, by trying to charge for staff time. The proposed measure would allow only a fee comparable to those charged commercially and no fee at all for electronic format.

Currently, there is no time limit for FOI compliance. Taylor’s bill would require that the requested materials be produced in no less than 30 days. However, Taylor said that a request for information going back more than two years would add another 45 days for an agency to fulfill the request.

Post and Courier Wins a Biggie…

The Post and Courier

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Great news from South Carolina….

The S.C. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of The Post and Courier in its quest to gain access to individual evaluations of former schools Superintendent Chester Floyd’s performance.

The dispute between the Berkeley County School District and the newspaper dates to 2007, when school district officials refused the newspaper access to board members’ individual summations of then-Superintendent Chester Floyd. The board released only an overall evaluation of the superintendent. The district said its documents were protected under attorney-client privilege because its lawyers had facilitated the process.

The newspaper’s lawsuit countered that the tactic circumvented the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

After five of the nine board members gave Floyd a commendable review for 2007, he received a 5 percent raise, bringing his salary to $196,980. The district refused to disclose how the other four board members rated him.

Newspaper attorney Charles Baker said Monday’s ruling made clear two things: a motion by the newspaper to gain access to a blank copy of the questionnaire that individual board members completed should have been granted; and the lower court’s summary judgment, which cut off the newspaper’s ability to prove its case, was premature.

 

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