OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Oct. 19, 2017
Judge: University should let attorney general view documents
A judge has ordered Kentucky State University to let the attorney general examine some documents about alleged sexual misconduct of some of the school's employees. The University of Kentucky's student newspaper asked to see the records last year. But Kentucky State University officials denied the request, saying it would disclose private information. The newspaper appealed that denial to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has jurisdiction over the state's open records law. Beshear asked to view the documents in private before he made a decision on whether they should be public. But Kentucky State University officials refused to let Beshear see the documents. Judge Thomas Wingate ruled Oct. 13 that not letting Beshear to look at the documents "could only thwart the public interest of transparency in government."
Sutton, Jackley support opening access to government records
Two candidates for South Dakota governor have committed to supporting legislation that would give the public access to additional government records including officials' correspondence, a major potential shift in state open records law. Democratic state Sen. Billie Sutton recently proposed draft legislation that would remove exemptions restricting access to public employees' correspondence, memoranda, calendars, working papers and telephone call records. Attorney General Marty Jackley, a Republican also running for governor, said he would sign such legislation if elected. Sutton said he would pursue the measure as governor — should he succeed outgoing GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard — if it isn't approved before then. Daugaard can't run again next year because of term limits and leaves office in 2019.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/south-dakota/articles/2017-10-16/sutton-jackley-support-opening-access-to-government-records
Chancellor raises concern about protecting research
Potential customers who are interested in teaming with North Dakota researchers on fields like unmanned aircraft are balking because of the state's open records laws, the head of the university system says. Chancellor Mark Hagerott told the state Board of Higher Education during last month's meeting that some leading research universities are afraid to partner on projects because they fear the state isn't doing enough to protect its data, especially in light of recent worldwide events involving the spread of information. "We literally could have the Chinese asking for all of our research contacts," Hagerott said. "We will not have partners if it continues this way." Hagerott, who was the focus of a 2016 open records dispute that was made public last month, told The Associated Press that he was raising the point "as an open question" and the issue would be addressed by the board's governance committee.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-dakota/articles/2017-10-15/chancellor-raises-concern-about-protecting-research
Montana judge orders release of US Rep. Gianforte's mugshot
A Montana judge has ordered the release of a mugshot taken of the state's lone congressman after he was convicted of assaulting a reporter on the eve of the special election that put him in office. Gallatin County District Judge Holly Brown ruled Wednesday that the booking shot of Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte should be made public. County Attorney Marty Lambert would not release the image without a court order, arguing it is confidential criminal justice information. Several media organizations, including The Associated Press, filed motions asking that the booking shot be released. Neither Gianforte nor Lambert opposed the release of the photo. Gianforte pleaded guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on May 24 as Jacobs sought to question him about health care legislation. Jacobs said Gianforte "body slammed" him.
Wisconsin professors raised partisanship worries over center
University of Wisconsin political science professors involved in the creation of a new publicly funded policy center expressed concern that there wasn't enough balance between Democratic and Republican speakers at its first planned major event, newly released emails show. The Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership was announced in May and it received $3 million in the state budget that Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed last month. Liberals worried it would serve as a conservative think tank despite assurances from university leaders that it wouldn't be partisan. E-mails obtained by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now under the state open records law that were provided to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Oct. 11, show that professors raised red flags early on.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/10/11/us/ap-us-colleges-free-speech.html
Iowa judge fired for dismissing case due to unclear acronym
Iowa's prisons agency has fired a judge who cited confusion about an acronym in an inmate's disciplinary report when she refused to punish him for failing to pay back $10 he borrowed, the judge's termination letter shows. Administrative Law Judge Renee Sneitzer alleges her firing amounts to retaliation, renewing questions about the independence of judges who work for the Department of Corrections. In an Aug. 28 letter obtained under the open records law, Savala told Sneitzer that she was being fired because she ignored his July 7 order to send back any problematic reports "so that staff have an opportunity to correct." "You dismissed an offender discipline report simply because the acronym 'DH' appeared in the report and you did not follow my supervisory directive in remanding the report" in violation of work rules, Savala wrote.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/iowa-judge-fired-for-dismissing-case-due-to-unclear-acronym/2017/10/11/793278ea-aeb3-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.f5ac1488a686
Transparency advocates push for cellphone photographs of public records
Open records advocates are pushing for Tennessee agencies to allow citizens to take cellphone photographs of public records. In January, The Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel issued a model policy that forbade requestors from making copies of records with personal equipment, following the adoption of a state law requiring government offices to establish written public records policies. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, told The Tennessean the restrictions, adopted by the Wildlife Resource Agency and Department of Transportation, put an undue burden on requestors. Bell asked the two departments to review their policies Sept. 20 and petitioned the Office of Open Records Counsel to draft new language. State Comptroller Justin Wilson said the counsel believes the language is appropriate. Bell said he might sponsor a bill addressing the issue.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Oct. 12, 2017
Official: Kentucky obligated to reveal investors in company
Gov. Matt Bevin's administration wrongfully denied a newspaper's request for records identifying shareholders and investors in a company receiving millions of dollars in public support for a new aluminum plant, Kentucky's attorney general said. The state Cabinet for Economic Development violated open records law by refusing The Courier-Journal's request for the names of those owning shares in Braidy Industries Inc., according to the ruling released Monday, Oct. 9. The identities "are unquestionably a matter of public interest," the ruling by Attorney General Andy Beshear's office said.
Read more: http://www.michigansthumb.com/news/article/Official-Kentucky-obligated-to-reveal-investors-12263704.php
Records: Retiring county manager doubled pay before leaving
A county manager in North Carolina more than doubled her pay in the final six months before she retired, according to records. Local media reported that records released Thursday, Oct. 5, show former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene was paid more than $500,000 in the final six months before she retired July 1. That included her pay, a retirement payout and a retention bonus she gave herself and 10 other employees. Greene had a base annual salary of $247,000. She was county manager for 20 years. The records were released in response to an open records request by Asheville-area media. County attorney Michael Frue would not discuss whether the pay was illegal. Greene's attorney, Thomas Amburgey, would not talk about the matter Thursday. The U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating the pay.
Missouri resident says governor blocked her for puke emoji
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' staff say the Republican's popular Facebook and Twitter accounts are unofficial and therefore exempt from public records requests, including one seeking the number of users he's blocked from seeing content on those accounts. Greitens' office denied public records requests from the Columbia Missourian for the number of users blocked from the governor's Facebook and Twitter accounts and copies of his direct messages, the newspaper reported. Blocking users on Facebook and Twitter restricts their ability to see and interact with content with the blocked account. Greitens' attorney, Sarah Madden, said Greitens created those accounts before taking office in January and they are not the governor's official accounts, making them exempt from state open-records laws.
Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/greitens-attorney-says-his-unofficial-facebook-twitter-accounts-are-exempt/article_ec8c79a2-bbac-578e-8546-bbd4e3a7d150.html
First hearing in public records lawsuit against Legislature
An initial hearing Friday, Oct. 6, on a public records lawsuit filed against the Washington state Legislature by a coalition of news organizations established some ground rules moving forward, but a date for arguments won't be set for a few more days. The brief scheduling conference was held before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese, who, with agreement from attorneys from both sides, said that the focus on the cross motions in the coming weeks should focus on the overarching legal argument of whether the Legislature is subject to the state's public records act. Lanese acknowledged that the case is expected to be resolved in higher courts, as whichever side loses is almost certain to appeal. "I'm very unlikely to be the last destination for this case," he said.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/washington/articles/2017-10-06/first-hearing-in-public-records-lawsuit-against-legislature
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • OCT. 5, 2017
Ethics cases against judge in open records dispute dismissed
Georgia's judicial watchdog has dismissed ethics complaints against a Georgia judge who was criticized for her involvement in the indictment and arrest of a journalist and his attorney. The Judicial Qualifications Commission has dismissed four complaints filed against Appalachian Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver, the Daily Report newspaper reports . A report filed with the Georgia Supreme Court says the agency found "no grounds" for discipline. The investigation looked into allegations Weaver had abused her position, engaged in "willful misconduct" and "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice."
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/09/29/us/ap-us-open-records-request-arrest.html?mcubz=0&_r=0
Police agency makes it harder for public to get reports
A South Carolina police department is making it harder for the public to gain access to routine reports. The Island Packet of Hilton Head reported Friday, Sept. 29, the Bluffton Police Department now says reporters must file formal open records act requests for full police reports. Previously, the department had made reports including a full narrative of what happened available immediately when reporters requested them. Under the state's Freedom of Information Act, agencies have 10 days to acknowledge requests and more time to fulfill them. The newspaper reports the policy change comes after an article questioning the agency's overtime spending during last year's Hurricane Matthew, saying officers were paid 24 hours a day, whether actively working or not. Department spokeswoman Joy Nelson says the article had nothing to do with the change.
Vos to Walker on budget vetoes: 'I won't forget this'
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told Gov. Scott Walker "I won't forget this" after Walker agreed to make several vetoes to the state budget to win support in the Senate, according to text messages released Thursday, Sept. 28, under the state’s open records law. The Associated Press requested texts exchanges in the days after the Senate passed the state budget on Sept. 15. The Senate only had enough Republican votes to pass the plan after Walker agreed to make a series of vetoes to the budget. Vos, who negotiated a budget deal with fellow Republicans Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, said at the time that the senators were holding the Legislature hostage, being selfish and making a "ransom note" to get what they wanted.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/wisconsin/articles/2017-09-28/vos-to-walker-on-budget-vetoes-i-wont-forget-this
Inmate recorded apology hours before he thought he'd die
Shortly before he thought he would be put to death, a Georgia death row inmate recorded an apology to the family of the woman he killed. Keith Leroy Tharpe was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26. But the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, granting a temporary stay to give the justices time to consider whether to take up an appeal in which his lawyers argued his death sentence was tainted by a juror's racial bias. Tharpe, 59, was convicted of murder and kidnapping in the September 1990 slaying of his sister-in-law, Jacquelyn Freeman. The corrections department on Thursday released a transcript of Tharpe's holding cell statement in response to an open records request from The Associated Press.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/inmate-recorded-apology-hours-before-he-thought-hed-die/2017/09/28/63f3b5fa-a479-11e7-b573-8ec86cdfe1ed_story.html?utm_term=.ed44cacf181b
UHSAA sues state, alleging unconstitutional control
The Utah High School Activities Association filed a lawsuit against the Utah State Board of Education, State of Utah and the state's attorney general over what it claims is unconstitutional overreach into its affairs. The UHSAA, which governs the athletics and extracurricular activities of Utah's high schools, filed the case Wednesday, Sept. 29, in an attempt to get recently passed legislation ruled unconstitutional. The UHSAA's lawsuit argues it is a private nonprofit corporation, so it does not have to comply with the state's open records laws, and it is being unfairly targeted by code so narrowly defined that it only applies to the UHSAA. The suit claims the law "specifically targets the UHSAA and places a burden on the UHSAA that is not placed on other similarly situated, private, nonprofit corporations."
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • SEPT. 28, 2017
Kansas sees spikes in inmate transfers among state prisons
Kansas officials are debating how much an increase in moving inmates among prisons has fueled unrest in recent months that included a riot at one facility. Kansas has seen several spikes this year in the number of inmates transferred among prisons, data from the state Department of Corrections shows. The department said the short-term increases in inmate transfers are tied in some cases to staffing problems at its prisons in Lansing and El Dorado. But it also attributed them to the relocation of a vocational program earlier this year and an ongoing effort to even out the number of maximum-security inmates in the three largest prisons, partly to thwart gang activity. The department released the figures to The Associated Press following an open records request.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/kansas/articles/2017-09-24/kansas-sees-spikes-in-inmate-transfers-among-state-prisons
Supreme Court: Sioux Falls must release $1M arena contract
The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled Sioux Falls officials must make public a contract the city negotiated over repairs to the Denny Sanford Premier Center. Sioux Falls officials have refused to release details of the contract, which reimbursed the city $1 million. City officials negotiated the settlement with contractors who worked on the project are warping was discovered on exterior metal panels of the $115 million arena. Argus Leader Media sued in 2015 to force the city to release the contract. A judge ruled in favor of the city, but the state Supreme Court reversed that decision Thursday, arguing the contract cannot be kept secret. The Argus Leader reports the high court concluded the contract does not meet exceptions to South Dakota's open records law. A spokeswoman for Mayor Mike Huether says city officials are reviewing the decision.
Minnesota fight between governor and lawmakers exposes legislative expenses
Minnesota lawmakers billed the state for more than $335,200 in housing and other expense reimbursements from July 1 to Sept. 1 a two-month period when the Legislature was not in session for a single day according to court documents filed in the legal battle between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders. Spending items range from payroll and office expenses to State Fair Tickets ($3,750) and flowers ($482). The information disclosed does not link the expense reimbursements to the 201 individual members of the Legislature, or indicate if the sometimes-hefty expenses were racked up by Republicans or members Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. The latest turn in the months long dispute provides a rare glimpse into the finances of the Legislature, which is not subject to the same open record laws as other public entities in Minnesota, such as cities and county governments.
Read more: http://www.startribune.com/court-fight-between-gov-mark-dayton-lawmakers-shines-light-on-hefty-legislative-expenses/445861783/
Post-vigil protest for slain Georgia Tech student; 3 arrests
Three people were arrested during a protest that followed a vigil for a Georgia Tech student who was fatally shot by campus police, a university spokesman said. Police shot and killed Scout Schultz late at night on Saturday, Sept. 16, after the 21-year-old student called 911 to report an armed and possibly intoxicated suspicious person, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said. Georgia Tech issued alerts urging students to shelter indoors Monday night because of violent protests. Video posted on social media showed a police vehicle burning in the street and officers pinning people to the ground as onlookers shouted at them. Authorities have not identified the officer who shot Schultz. Georgia Tech on Monday refused to release personnel or disciplinary reports involving the officers, saying such information is exempt from Georgia's open records law.
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-georgia-tech-protest-20170919-story.html
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • SEPT. 21, 2017
Holding federal institutions accountable becoming harder
(Part of an ongoing examination of threats to First Amendment freedoms by The Associated Press, the American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors)
There are cracks in the curtains President Donald Trump tried to draw around the government early in his presidency, but the slivers of light aren't making it easier to hold federal officials accountable for their actions. Trump still refuses to divest from his real estate and hotel empire or release virtually any of his tax returns. His administration is vigorously pursuing whistleblowers. Among scores of vacant senior jobs in the government is an inspector general for the Department of Energy — led by Secretary Rick Perry, former governor of Texas — as it helps drive the region's recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Rebuilding from the deadly storm seems certain to be a $100 billion-plus endeavor involving multiple federal departments and an army of government contractors. If the ghosts of Katrina, Sandy and other big storms are guides, the bonanza of taxpayer dollars is a recipe for corruption. And that makes transparency and accountability all the more critical for a president who has bristled at the suggestion of either one.
Read more: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/national-international/Shadows-of-Secrecy-Spread-Across-Federal-Government-444998923.html
Request denied: States try to block access to public records
(Part of an ongoing examination of threats to First Amendment freedoms by The Associated Press, the American Society of News Editors and Associated Press Media Editors)
In February, Arkansas lawmakers marked the 50-year anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act with a resolution calling it "a shining example of open government" that had ensured access to vital public records for generations. They spent the following weeks debating and, in many cases approving, new exemptions to the law in what critics called an unprecedented attack on the public's right to know.When they were finished, universities could keep secret all information related to their police forces, including their size and the names and salaries of officers. Public schools could shield a host of facts related to security, including the identities of teachers carrying concealed weapons and emergency response plans. And state Capitol police could withhold anything they believed could be "detrimental to public safety" if made public.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/across-us-lawmakers-chip-away-at-publics-access-to-records/2017/09/12/99c303ca-980d-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html?utm_term=.717d5455376b
Kobach's use of private emails for Trump panel questioned
A Kansas Press Association leader and a media attorney are accusing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach of flouting a year-old state open records law by using a private email account for his work as vice chairman of President Donald Trump's commission on election fraud. Max Kautsch, a Lawrence attorney who specializes in free speech and open government issues, said Kobach's contention that he is serving on the commission as a private citizen is "obviously totally insane," The Kansas City Star reported . And Doug Anstaett, the press association's executive director, said Kobach is "dead wrong." The 2016 law says that public officials' emails on public business are subject to disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act even if they are on a private account or device.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/kobachs-use-of-private-emails-for-trump-panel-questioned/2017/09/18/d278e2c2-9cc5-11e7-b2a7-bc70b6f98089_story.html?utm_term=.fc345f94dc34
Judge says 'shadow insurance' documents can remain secret
An Iowa judge has ruled that the details of "shadow insurance" subsidiaries created by several life insurers can remain confidential. Indiana University professor emeritus Joseph Belth sought the documents last year under Iowa's open records law, saying he believes they would expose risky financial practices that could bankrupt some insurers. Judge Lawrence McLellan sided Thursday, Sept. 15, with the industry and state regulators, saying the documents are part of the companies' "plans of operations" and exempt from disclosure. Companies such as TransAmerica have taken advantage of an Iowa law to transfer billions of dollars in liabilities to subsidiaries. Insurers say the arrangements free them from accounting rules mandating that they hold excess cash reserves.
Read more: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/business/article173474476.html
The Dallas Morning News, Corpus Christi Caller-Times honored
The Dallas Morning News and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times have been honored by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas for their open government reporting.
The newspapers on Thursday, Sept. 14, each won the Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award during the foundation's state conference in Austin. The Dallas Morning News, in the Class AA large market category, was recognized for reports exposing problems with the Texas child welfare system. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, in Class A, was honored for stories about the death of Naomi Villarreal, who was a victim of domestic violence. The Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI Award is named for the foundation's former executive director. The competition is open to newspaper, broadcast and online journalism.
Colorado county updates online processing of pubic record requests
Colorado’s Boulder County has announced it has updated its online system for processing public records request. Using new software, elected county officials and their staff will "be able to offer greater transparency of public documents and to help improve access to records requested under the Colorado Open Records Act," officials said in a news release. People can access the web-based portal for people's requests for records from multiple Boulder County departments by going to the county's CORA webpage, bit.ly/2xyN4dO. Officials said the new website will allow people to submit public records requests, track the progress of the county's response and download electronic records that others have asked for. The website also provides a searchable archive of previously released requests and documents.
Read more: http://www.timescall.com/news-region-news/ci_31298858/boulder-county-has-new-web-portal-public-records
Lawsuit by AP, others seek emails from Washington lawmakers
A coalition of news organizations led by The Associated Press sued the Washington Legislature on Tuesday, Sept. 12, challenging lawmakers' claim that a tweak made more than two decades ago to the state's public records law excludes them from stricter disclosure rules that apply to other elected officials and agencies. Hundreds of important records are being withheld by the state House and Senate, the lawsuit says, depriving the public of information essential to knowing what is going on in state government.
"The public has a right to know what its elected officials are doing behind closed doors," AP Managing Editor Brian Carovillano said.
Read more: http://www.times-standard.com/article/zz/20170912/NEWS/170919800
A timeline of the public records law in Washington state
A coalition of news organizations led by The Associated Press is suing the Washington Legislature over its assertion that state lawmakers aren't required to turn over daily schedules, text messages, emails and other materials related to their work. Here's a look at a timeline of the public records law in the state:
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/washington/articles/2017-09-12/a-timeline-of-the-public-records-law-in-washington-state
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Sept. 14, 2017
More than 30 applied for Nebraska patrol superintendent job
The Nebraska State Patrol's new superintendent was chosen from a field of more than 30 candidates from around the nation. Harbor Police Chief John Bolduc of San Diego was unveiled last week as Gov. Pete Ricketts' choice to lead the agency. The governor's office released the applications of the four finalists on Monday after three inquiries and an open records request from The Associated Press. In his application letter, Bolduc pitched himself as a "cultural change agent" with management experience from several different law enforcement agencies. The other finalists were Michael A. Kopy, a staff inspector for the New York State Police's internal affairs bureau; Nebraska State Patrol Capt. Mike Jahnke; and Nebraska State Patrol Capt. Andrew "Buck" Duis.
Read more: http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/more-than-applied-for-nebraska-patrol-superintendent-job/article_51635e23-eefe-5cda-b21a-57d16b9d8889.html
Court: Governments can't evade open meetings in small groups
The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday, Sept. 7, upheld a ruling that a government can't set up meetings of less than a majority of public officials to evade the state's Open Meetings Act. The court ruled 9-0 that the city of Columbus was wrong to set up pairs of meetings with the mayor and three city council members apiece in 2014, avoiding the city council's quorum of four members. Those meetings were to discuss an agreement between the city and an economic development agency and maintenance of public buildings. A reporter for The Commercial Dispatch newspaper found out about the meetings but was excluded. The reporter then filed an ethics complaint and the state Ethics Commission ruled that such "piecemeal" quorums were illegal. The city appealed to chancery court, and then again to the Supreme Court when Chancery Judge Kenneth Burns also ruled against the city.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/mississippi/articles/2017-09-07/court-governments-cant-evade-open-meetings-in-small-groups
Judge: Emanuel does not have to turn over list of private emails in FOIA fight
A Cook County judge has ruled that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not have to produce an index of private emails and text messages he sent and received, dealing a setback to the Chicago Tribune in its continuing fight with the city over the mayor's electronic communications. Judge Kathleen Pantle made the ruling Thursday, Sept. 8, in the Tribune's ongoing lawsuit that alleges Emanuel skirted the state's open records laws by refusing to release communications about city business that he had conducted through private accounts. Pantle, in a previous ruling, sided with the Tribune when she ruled that the state's public records law does not distinguish between official and personal accounts so long as the matter relates to government business. She later ordered the city to give to the Tribune an index of certain emails and text messages the mayor sent and received.
Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-email-lawsuit-20170908-story.html
Wisconsin AG's office has spent $83k on promotional material
The Wisconsin attorney general's office has spent about $83,000 on promotional items since Republican Brad Schimel took office, including bags, pistol cases, candy and custom-made fortune cookies. The Associated Press obtained invoices through an open records request that show Schimel spent $6,269 on messenger bags, $6,000 on pistol cases, nearly $3,200 on candy and $100 on fortune cookies containing custom-ordered messages such as, "The time is right to make new friends" and "no one's been hurt from laughing too much." The spending also included nearly $10,000 for coins promoting Schimel's "kicking ass every day" mantra. The items had been purchased since January 2015. Most of it was handed out as gifts to attendees at DOJ conferences.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/wisconsin/articles/2017-09-06/wisconsin-ag-spends-83k-on-promotional-items
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Sept. 6, 2017
Wisconsin's offer to Foxconn increased substantially
Wisconsin's offer to Foxconn Technology Group to extend $3 billion in tax breaks was made in a handwritten deal that increased substantially before being signed by Gov. Scott Walker, documents released Thursday, Aug. 31, under the state's open records law showed. Walker's office released the documents to The Associated Press and other news organizations. One handwritten page, signed by Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou on July 12, called for the Taiwanese company to invest up to $10 billion in the state in exchange for $3 billion in subsidies. That was two weeks before the deal was publicly announced. A June 26 letter from Walker's administration said the state's offer had increased substantially, but portions of a June 2 offer from the state to Foxconn were blacked out by Walker's office.
Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/wisconsin/articles/2017-08-31/wisconsins-offer-to-foxconn-increased-substantially
Cop shot man in under a second after opening victim's door
An Ohio police officer who killed an unarmed driver after a high-speed chase shot the man less than five seconds after getting out of his cruiser. Strongsville Officer Jason Miller shot 37-year-old Roy Evans Jr. about 4.7 seconds after exiting his cruiser, according to an Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation summary released to the Associated Press through an open records request. A grand jury Tuesday, Aug. 29, declined to indict Miller over the shooting.The report provided more details about the March 7 shooting.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/cop-fired-fatal-shot-under-a-second-after-opening-mans-door/2017/08/31/89bbfff2-8e82-11e7-9c53-6a169beb0953_story.html?utm_term=.d04b44651202
Kettering, Ohio, police In fatal shooting: 5 questions we're asking
Kettering, Ohio, police say a pipe bomb was found today during a search of the Dayton apartment on South McGee Street rented by Jason Hoops, the man that was shot and killed Sunday during a traffic stop near Craig Drive and East Bataan Drive. Hoops, 33, was shot and killed after Kettering police officer Jonathon McCoy called for a “Signal 99” for more officers to respond. Hoops had a Fairborn address on his driver’s license but was living in Dayton, Kettering police said. Kettering police Chief Chip Protsman asked for patience from residents and did not answer specific questions about the incident during a Monday press conference. This news organization is waiting for requests for open records related to McCoy and the shooting.
Read more: http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/news/crime--law/kettering-police-involved-fatal-shooting-questions-asking/K0SsLLOOYyJdELM2VuuiTM/
Ohio cop seen punching man had past complaints, little discipline
A white, Euclid, Ohio, police officer seen on video punching a black man more than a dozen times in a traffic stop has received multiple complaints about his behavior during his three years in the police department. According to documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, Officer Michael Amiott received four letters of reprimand and one formal citizen complaint as a Euclid officer but was never disciplined beyond written citations. He was cited for pistol-whipping a driver with a handgun, mishandling evidence, losing his temper in front of his commanding officer and being involved in two crashes in police vehicles.
Read more: https://apnews.com/0dbc8422a37146d9a6fc5846dcbd8276
Kansas pulls police officer's certification after complaint
Kansas revoked the certification of a former police officer on Tuesday, Aug. 29, after a government watchdog's complaint about his 1995 California misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence. Former Marion police officer Michael A. Stone's last day on the job was Aug. 5. A five-page order from the state Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training was dated Aug. 9, but was not finalized until Tuesday in order to give him time to request a hearing. He did not contest the commission's action. Stone repeatedly struck his then wife, Misty Stone, in the face with his fist, and the officer who responded to the incident wrote that her face was reddened and slightly swollen, according to a police report on the incident obtained by AP through an open records request.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/aug/29/kansas-pulls-police-officers-certification-after-c/
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • Aug. 31, 2017
Los Angeles Times: Little public information on device that skims cellphone data
Several years ago, little was known about the StingRay, a powerful surveillance device that imitates the function of a cell tower and captures the signals of nearby phones, allowing law enforcement officers to sweep through hundreds of messages, conversations and call logs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The secrecy around the technology, which can ensnare the personal data of criminals and bystanders alike, spurred lawsuits and demands for public records to uncover who was using it and the extent of its capabilities. In California, a 2015 law requires law enforcement agencies to seek permission at public meetings to buy the devices, and post rules for their use online. But a Los Angeles Times review of records from 20 of the state’s largest police and sheriff’s departments, plus the Alameda County district attorney’s office, found some agencies have been slow to follow or have ignored the law. Several that partner with federal agencies to work on cases are not subject to the law’s reporting requirements. The result is that little information on StingRay use is available to the public, making it hard to determine how wide a net the surveillance tools cast and what kind of data they gather. The Times reviewed more than 400 documents it received from public information requests, including grant proposals, purchase orders and memos on the use of StingRays and similar devices generically called “stingrays” or “dirtboxes.”
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-cell-phone-surveillance-transparency-law-20170827-htmlstory.html
Arizona Daily Star: Detective failed to investigate many abuse cases
A Tucson police detective who resigned from the department last year failed to properly investigate dozens of child sexual and vulnerable-adult abuse cases, allowing “dangerous suspects” to walk free, the Arizona Daily Star says police documents show. The Tucson Police Department’s office of professional standards began investigating Lisa Lopez in April 2016 after her supervisor suspected Lopez engaged in “serious investigative misconduct” during a vulnerable-adult case, according to documents from the investigation into the detective. A comprehensive review of Lopez’s past cases revealed 36 cases were mishandled or “lacked a full investigation,” according to the report, obtained by the Star through an open-records request. “It became very clear that Lopez intentionally and consciously made the decision to not properly investigate cases where children and vulnerable adults were victimized,” Lt. Eric Johnson wrote in his review of Lopez’s case.
Read more: http://tucson.com/news/local/records-tucson-detective-failed-to-properly-investigate-dozens-of-abuse/article_1407f480-a777-5eec-b082-d17bd0ada0f0.html
NRA's video message to 'elites': 'We're coming for you'
The election of President Donald Trump and Republican control of Congress meant the National Rifle Association could probably rest easy that gun laws wouldn't change for at least four years. But the NRA has begun a campaign not against pending legislation but what it sees as liberal forces bent on undoing the progress it's made — and the political powerhouse is resorting to language that some believe could incite violence.
Using the hashtags #counterresistance and #clenchedfistoftruth, the NRA has put out a series of videos that announce a "shot across the bow," and say the gun-rights group is "coming for you" and that "elites ... threaten our very survival," terms that suggest opponents are enemy combatants.
"The times are burning and the media elites have been caught holding the match," NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch says in one video aired on NRATV, the gun lobby's web video site, as it shows footage of people fighting police, breaking storefront glass and burning the American flag.
Later, she specifically calls out The New York Times: "We've had it with your narratives, your propaganda, your fake news. We've had it with your constant protection of your Democrat overlords, your refusal to acknowledge any truth that upsets the fragile construct that you believe is real life. And we've had it with your tone-deaf assertion that you are in any way truth or fact-based journalism," Loesch says. "Consider this the shot across your proverbial bow. ... In short? We're coming for you."
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • Aug. 24, 2017
Baltimore Sun: Kushner firm seeks arrests to collect debts
The real estate company owned by Jared Kushner, son-in-law and top adviser to President Donald Trump, has been the most aggressive in Maryland in using a controversial debt-collection tactic: getting judges to order the arrest of people who owe his company money. Since 2013, the first full year in which the Kushner Cos. operated in Maryland, corporate entities affiliated with the firm's 17 apartment complexes in the state have sought the civil arrest of 105 former tenants for failing to appear in court to face allegations of unpaid debt, The Baltimore Sun has found. That's more than any other landlord in the state over that time, an analysis of Maryland District Court data shows. Court records show that 20 former Kushner tenants have been detained. Industry professionals say such arrests, called body attachments, can be the only way to get tenants to pay the money they owe. Kushner Cos. officials say the New York-based firm employs the tactic as a last resort, and follows industry standards and state law.
But critics say it amounts to jailing people for being poor — and can interfere with their livelihoods, making it more difficult to pay the money they allegedly owe. Moreover, at least some tenants who have been targeted say they did not receive proper notice of the court appearances they were accused of missing.
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-kushner-arrests-20170812-story.html
Former officer sought $1.3 million from city of Green Bay, Wisconsin
Newly released documents show a former Green Bay (Wisconsin) police officer wants the city to pay him $1.3 million for disclosing his personnel records.
R. Casey Masiak, of Bellevue, says the release of the records last spring caused him embarrassment, monetary losses and emotional damage and violated a confidentiality agreement.
The city denied the claim in June, but USA Today Network-Wisconsin obtained it in an open records request. The agreement says police officials accepted Masiak's resignation and agreed to clear his personnel file of evidence that he was accused of harassing fellow officers.
Reporters sue feds for info on FBI's Bundy ranch infiltration with fake film crew
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and FBI in an effort to pry loose documents related to the FBI's prior impersonation of documentary filmmakers.
The FBI has admitted to sending undercover agents to Nevada in 2014 to act as a film crew and interview supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy amid an armed standoff with the federal government. Footage shot for the fake documentary was later used by the government during criminal trials of some of those involved in the standoff.
The reporters committee sought through Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain FBI records regarding the the bogus film crew as well as any records on the bureau's use of the tactic dating back to 2010. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes after the committee said the FBI has failed to act on on the FOIA requests.
FBI agents pretended to work for a bogus film company, Longbow Productions, to gain access to and interview Mr. Bundy and others who aided him during the standoff. The agents created a website, business cards and other credentials to make Longbow Productions look like an authentic company.
San Antonio say officer was justified in hitting 14-year-old girl
A San Antonio police officer did in fact hit a 14-year-old girl with either his hand or fist after the minor allegedly did the same, according to a report released by the city of San Antonio.
Officer Gary Tuli’s supervisor found he was justified in using force against the girl, who the San Antonio Express-News is not identifying because she is minor who has not been convicted of a crime.
A brief video of the altercation, which happened late in the evening May 20 in the parking lot of the Crown Palace Event Center on the Northeast Side, went viral on the Internet, capturing the attention of some national media outlets.
The 39-second video is blurry, unsteady and shot from a distance at night, which led some to speculate if the officer did in fact hit the girl.
After the altercation, the Express-News requested, under the state open records law, the use-of-force report, body camera footage and dashcam video of the incident.
Tulsa County expenses were high in defending Elliott Williams jail death case
Tulsa County has spent $430,000 to defend the Elliott Williams jail death civil rights lawsuit, which the Sheriff’s Office lost in March in a $10.25 million jury verdict.
Williams, 37, died naked and paralyzed on Oct. 27, 2011, after lying on a cell floor for 51 hours in the Tulsa Jail’s medical unit following a six-day stay.
The county has paid $430,700.78 to the Brewster & De Angelis law firm to defend the lawsuit, according to documents provided by the county in response to a Tulsa World open records request.
Costs to taxpayers will continue to add up, as the case’s legal wrangling isn’t done.
AP: Contraband seizures spike after prison riot
Department of Correction records show contraband seizures rose dramatically at Delaware's maximum-security prison after a deadly inmate riot and hostage-taking.
The records, obtained by The Associated Press after a lengthy Freedom of Information fight, show 26 weapons were seized in the month following the Feb. 1 uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. An additional 36 weapons were seized in March, more than double January's total of 17.
Seizures of illegal drugs and unauthorized prescription and over-the-counter drugs also spiked in March, with 14 confiscations, more than in the previous four months combined.
Statewide, weapons seizures in all Delaware prisons rose from 22 in January to 30 in February and 48 in March.
"Through the reinstitution of security teams at James T. Vaughn and proactive safety practices, the DOC has located and seized numerous contraband items," DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said in an email. "It's important to recognize not all contraband is considered dangerous and the issues the Delaware DOC faces with contraband are not unique."
Contraband seizures declined in April, May and June, but a union leader says correctional officers keep finding dangerous weapons.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • Aug. 17, 2017
New York Times: FOIA material shows how a TV giant rids itself of regulations
The day before President Trump’s inauguration, the top executive of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest owner of television stations, invited an important guest to the headquarters of the company’s Washington-area ABC affiliate. The trip was, in the parlance of the business world, a deal closer. The invitation from David D. Smith, the chairman of Sinclair, went to Ajit V. Pai, a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission who was about to be named the broadcast industry’s chief regulator. Mr. Smith wanted Mr. Pai to ease up on efforts under President Barack Obama to crack down on media consolidation, which were threatening Sinclair’s ambitions to grow even bigger. Mr. Smith did not have to wait long.
Within days of their meeting, Mr. Pai was named chairman of the F.C.C. And during his first 10 days on the job, he relaxed a restriction on television stations’ sharing of advertising revenue and other resources — the exact topic that Mr. Pai discussed with Mr. Smith and one of his business partners, according to records examined by The New York Times. “These are invaluable and effective tools, which were taken away by the commission,” according to a summary of their meeting filed with the F.C.C. It was only the beginning. Since becoming chairman in January, Mr. Pai has undertaken a deregulatory blitz, enacting or proposing a wish list of fundamental policy changes advocated by Mr. Smith and his company. Hundreds of pages of emails and other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal a rush of regulatory actions has been carefully aligned with Sinclair’s business objectives.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/14/us/politics/how-a-conservative-tv-giant-is-ridding-itself-of-regulation.html?_r=0
Free-speech debate swirls as officials block on social media
An emerging debate about whether elected officials violate people's free speech rights by blocking them on social media is spreading across the U.S. as groups sue or warn politicians to stop the practice.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Maine Gov. Paul LePage and sent warning letters to Utah's congressional delegation. It followed recent lawsuits against the governors of Maryland and Kentucky and President Donald Trump.
Trump's frequent and often unorthodox use of Twitter and allegations he blocks people with dissenting views has raised questions about what elected officials can and cannot do on their official social media pages.
"People turn to social media because they see their elected officials as being available there and they're hungry for opportunities to express their opinions and share feedback," said Anna Thomas, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Utah. "That includes people who disagree with public officials."
Most of the officials targeted so far — all Republicans — say they are not violating free speech but policing social media pages to get rid of people who post hateful, violent, obscene or abusive messages.
Texas governor won't say whom he blocks from public Twitter account
In June, the American-Statesman sent public records requests to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, among other Austin- and Texas-based politicians, asking for lists of whom they block from following their public, taxpayer-funded Twitter accounts.
The governor, citing public safety concerns, said, no. His fear: Russian hackers.
Lawyers for each office said they are asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to rule that the information is exempt from required public disclosure. Both argue that divulging the names of the blocked accounts constitute “a computer network vulnerability report.”
Abbott and Patrick cited a May Time magazine article that discusses Russian hackers who used tailored Twitter messages to take over a computer upon clicking a link in the tweet, a type of phishing attack.
Open records policy set for administrative court records
Kentucky's Supreme Court justices have established an open records policy to guide the media and public in seeking access to administrative information in the state courts.
It's the first open records policy for the Administrative Office of the Courts, and helps fill a gap in Kentucky's Open Records Act, which does not apply to the judicial branch of state government.
Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said the judiciary has "long complied with the spirit" of the open records law but it is "time to formalize our commitment into written policy."
"What was our custom now is the law," he said.
The AOC is the administrative arm of Kentucky's court system.
New law allowing TV testimony could face legal challenge
Victims and witnesses in criminal domestic violence cases in New Jersey can now testify by closed-circuit television under a new law enacted by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
But experts and lawmakers say the measure could face legal challenges.
The legislation passed the Democrat-led Assembly and Senate without any opposition and puts New Jersey in a class with at least one other state to allow television testimony from witnesses of any age. Delaware enacted a similar law in 2015.
Experts predict the law could face a legal challenge because of the constitutional right of defendants to confront their accusers. But the law's backers say the law allows for public viewing and cross examination.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • Aug. 10, 2017
Washington Post: Police officers fired, then sometimes rehired
Since 2006, the nation’s largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public’s trust, from cheating on overtime to unjustified shootings. But The Washington Post has found that departments have been forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by union contracts. Most of the officers regained their jobs when police chiefs were overruled by arbitrators, typically lawyers hired to review the process. In many cases, the underlying misconduct was undisputed, but arbitrators often concluded that the firings were unjustified because departments had been too harsh, missed deadlines, lacked sufficient evidence or failed to interview witnesses. … Nationwide, the reinstatement of fired officers has not been comprehensively studied or tracked. No national database logs terminations. Some firings receive local publicity, but many go unreported. Some states shield police personnel records — including firings — from public disclosure. To investigate how often fired officers were returned to their jobs, The Post filed open records requests with the nation’s 55 largest municipal and county police forces. Thirty-seven departments complied with the request, disclosing that they had fired a combined 1,881 officers since 2006. Of those officers, 451 successfully appealed and won their jobs back.
Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/investigations/police-fired-rehired/?utm_term=.4f997cfc59a6
Charlotte Observer: Many officials don’t preserve texts
“Loud mouths that don’t even live in Mooresville pitching a fit.” That’s how one elected official described, in a text message to the mayor, some homeowners who were lobbying the town of Mooresville earlier this summer to keep development off 137 acres near Lake Davidson.
Mooresville Commissioner David Coble thought it was a private text. But it ended up projected like a slideshow on a wall during a public town commission meeting. North Carolina law says texts sent or received by government officials are part of the public domain – but a Charlotte Observer survey found many local governments across the state aren’t following the law. Few places even have policies that would make sure employees and elected officials are saving texts. In Coble’s case, his texts were released after neighbors sent public record requests. …
Getting these kinds of text message records from government officials elsewhere in the state, however, could prove difficult for the public. State officials have been warning public officials for nearly five years about the need to archive text messages as public records. … The Charlotte Observer asked more than 20 municipal officials across North Carolina whether they regularly collect and archive text messages. Eight local governments gave no answer, including Wake and Guilford counties and Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and Durham. Of the 14 cities and counties that responded, just two – the cities of Charlotte and Kings Mountain – said they either require employees to preserve text messages or they use software to routinely download texts.
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article165204902.html
AP: Justice Department promises to go after government leaks
Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledged to rein in government leaks that he said undermine American security, taking an aggressive public stand after being called weak on the matter by President Donald Trump. The nation's top law enforcement official cited no current investigations in which disclosures of information had jeopardized the country, but said the number of criminal leak probes had more than tripled in the early months of the Trump administration. Justice Department officials also said they were reviewing guidelines put in place to make it difficult for the government to subpoena journalists about their sources, and would not rule out the possibility that a reporter could be prosecuted. "No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight to advance their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information," Sessions said in an announcement that followed a series of news reports this year on the Trump campaign and White House that have relied on classified information. … Media advocacy organizations condemned the announcement, with Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, saying the decision to review existing guidelines was "deeply troubling."
New information expected to be released in killings of Coronado students
New details about the slayings of two Coronado High School students was to be released after an El Paso County judge lifted a seal on a key court document, according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz ruled that an arrest affidavit detailing the investigation into the deaths of Colorado Springs students Natalie Cano-Partida, 16, and Derek Greer, 15, be made public within 72 hours.
The judge granted the three-day delay at the request of prosecutors, who asked for time to personally discuss the contents of the document with families of the young victims, who they said haven't been told how the killings occurred.
The Gazette was among the media outlets that requested the release under Colorado's open records laws, citing the public's right to be informed about public safety threats. Several of those accused in the case have publicly claimed gang ties.
ACLU sues Maryland governor over social media blocking
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan for blocking people who disagree with him on his official Facebook page and deleting their comments.
The ACLU sued on behalf of four people, saying their First Amendment rights were violated.
Hogan's spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, calls the lawsuit "frivolous." She says the governor's office has a clear policy and will "remove all hateful and violent content" and "coordinated spam attacks." She says the ACLU "should be focusing on more important issues."
The ACLU says censoring constituents on social media has become a pressing issue nationwide. The ACLU filed a similar lawsuit Monday against Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, and the Knight First Amendment Institute is suing President Donald Trump for blocking people on Twitter.
Nevada newspaper loses high court bid to name pot business owners
The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected a newspaper's appeal seeking to make public the names of people who own marijuana operations in the state.
The Reno Gazette-Journal (http://tinyurl.com/ybwu85w9 ) filed suit against the city of Sparks two years ago after city officials redacted the names of local owners of medical pot establishments from business license records.
Washoe County and the city of Reno are among jurisdictions that have made that information public. A district judge initially agreed those names cannot be kept secret.
But the Supreme Court ruled the information is exempt from public disclosure requirements because the Nevada Legislature specifically made it confidential.
Sparks Assistant City Attorney Doug Thornley says the city believes it's a safety issue because of the large amounts of cash on hand at the cash-only businesses.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • Aug. 3, 2017
DeKalb water bill audit blames flawed technology and oversight
DeKalb County’s inability to fix its chronic problems with water billing is due, in part, to a muddled management structure and an outdated reliance on paper instead of technology, according to a highly anticipated outside audit. The 127-page draft audit, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request, includes 22 recommendations to address longstanding issues that have led to extreme bills for many county residents.
Though the audit contains no surprises about the causes of billing inaccuracies, it does highlight foundational challenges: inadequate customer service, failing technology, reliance on temporary workers, poorly trained employees, disjointed management and human error.
Read more: www.ajc.com
Trial opens in case seeking details on executions in Arizona
A civil trial has begun in Phoenix over whether Arizona must reveal the source of its execution drugs, with an attorney for news organizations saying the public needs those details to determine whether the state is effective in carrying out the death penalty.
"We don't know if it's operating properly," attorney David Schulz said during his opening statement at the trial in Phoenix.
Schulz also said state rules requires some members of the execution team to have a license to place IV lines, but the public doesn't know if those people have training to determine if a prisoner has been properly anesthetized and is feeling pain.
Lawyers for The Associated Press, Arizona Republic and other plaintiffs say they have a First Amendment right to know the source and potency of lethal injection drugs and the qualifications of the executioners.
They filed the lawsuit seeking the information after the 2014 death of condemned inmate Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination before he died in what his attorney called a botched execution.
Other plaintiffs include Guardian News & Media, Arizona Daily Star, CBS 5 (KPHO-TV) and 12 News (KPNX-TV).
Arizona currently has 118 prisoners on death row.
Wetterlings hope to keep news media out of privacy fight
The parents of Jacob Wetterling, a Minnesota boy who was kidnapped and killed in 1989 in a case that remained unsolved until last year, have asked a judge to keep the media out of a privacy fight over the investigative file.
An attorney for Patty and Jerry Wetterling filed the motion in Stearns County District Court in response to a legal challenge by several news organizations and open government groups that want full access to the voluminous case file, the Star Tribune reported.
Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall determined this spring that the county's entire investigative file was public under Minnesota's open records law now that the investigation is over. She was set to release the documents last month. But the Wetterlings filed a lawsuit to keep some of the documents private, saying they deal with personal family matters that were irrelevant to the investigation.
Danny Heinrich confessed last year to sexually assaulting and killing 11-year-old Jacob.
Maine governor says inappropriate FOA use is designed to disrupt
Maine's Republican governor says that misuse of public access law is costing the state "thousands of dollars" and is designed to disrupt his administration.
Gov. Paul LePage spoke out against what he called inappropriate use of Maine's Freedom of Access Act during an appearance on WGAN-AM. He said he supports the law, but misuse of it by media members has resulted in "a foot thick of papers" related to FOA.
LePage's statement came in the wake of a Portland Press Herald story that relied on the access law to report that LePage, his staff and security spent more than $35,000 on luxury hotels, restaurants and travel in Washington, D.C., last spring.
ACLU challenges Kentucky governor's social media blocking
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has filed a federal lawsuit over Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's blocking of Facebook and Twitter users.
The lawsuit asks a judge to declare Bevin's action a violation of the First Amendment and to prohibit the governor from further blocking. Bevin often posts videos on Facebook and news and other statements on his official Twitter account.
The suit was filed on behalf of two Kentucky residents who were blocked by Bevin on Facebook and Twitter. The ACLU says more than 600 people have been blocked from seeing the governor's postings.
Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said the blocking doesn't violate free speech rights.
Closed-door meetings focused on possible use of downtown library building
Members of the Joplin (Missouri) City Council have met in three small groups with at least one representative of Missouri Southern State University without public notice in regard to a possible use for the former Joplin Public Library.
Emails disclosed through an open records request filed with the city by The Joplin Globe show that three meetings were held involving two to three council members each time.
A lawyer for the Missouri Press Association, Jean Maneke of Kansas City, said those types of meetings are contrary to the intent of the Missouri Sunshine Law addressing open meetings and records.
City Attorney Peter Edwards said there was no violation. "I think it is very clear that small group meetings do not violate the open records law," he said in an email.
The city attorney said council members routinely hold individual discussions with people who ask to speak to them.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • July 20, 2017
Portland Press Herald: Governor travels to luxury hotels, dines on public dime
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, his staff and security detail spent more than $35,000 on luxury hotels, restaurants and travel to Washington, D.C., over a three-month period last spring as the Republican governor attended meetings or sought audiences with members of Congress and the Trump administration. LePage’s appointment calendar also lists dozens of “private appointments” during his four trips to the nation’s capital this winter and spring. His office has refused to provide more details about those appointments. Taxpayers footed most of the bill for the governor’s travels, although his office said some expenses were reimbursed by outside groups such as the Republican Governors Association. It was unclear last week how much Maine state government was reimbursed, however. Four months have passed since the Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald first sought LePage’s travel expenses, and his office has yet to fully comply with the public records requests under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.
Read more: http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/23/luxury-hotels-fine-dining-for-lepage-on-taxpayers-dime-records-review-show-lepage-administration-spent-35000-on-d-c-trips/
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Camera cover-ups
A federal Homeland Security law enforcement officer was assigned to Metro transit patrol as part of a beefed-up security plan for the busy Fourth of July weekend. He didn’t like what he saw. Late in the afternoon on July 4, the officer walked into the North Hanley MetroLink substation to find 12 St. Louis County police officers milling about. A resulting Metro check of video footage determined that not only were county police officers loitering in the North Hanley security office instead of patrolling trains or platforms, at one point they covered the security camera with an envelope and tape. That incident was not unique. At least eight times since 2015, the camera inside the MetroLink substation that serves the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Express Scripts has been covered by county police officers, according to records obtained by the Post-Dispatch through a public records request. At a time in which St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has said he doubled the number of officers patrolling the transit system to deal with a spike in violence, the public documents, photos and video demonstrate a disturbing pattern of county police officers loitering in offices, covering a camera and refusing to cooperate with Metro public safety officials.
Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/columns/tony-messenger/messenger-caught-on-camera-st-louis-county-cops-cover-their/article_9789e796-f617-5e6d-ad19-765104543318.html
Wichita Eagle: Disciplinary action grew at prison amid staff shortages
Disciplinary cases against inmates at El Dorado Correctional Facility surged this spring as its population increased amid staffing shortages, according to the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle. As of mid-July, the prison has had more than 2,400 disciplinary cases this year. That’s on track to surpass the 2,841 cases at the facility in all of 2016. The rising number of cases underscores concerns among a union for corrections officers and some lawmakers over safety at the facility, which is under stress because of difficulty filling empty positions. The state also must pay overtime to current workers to maintain staffing requirements and the union says some employees are now being forced to work 16-hour shifts. … The Eagle obtained the data from the Kansas Department of Corrections through an open records request.
Read more: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article163307298.html
Wisconsin DOJ to publish list of open record requestors
Wisconsin’ Department of Justice has started publishing a list of pending record requests online.
The agency announced in a news release that it has added the list to its website at https://www.doj.state.wi.us/office-open-government/responses-public-record-requests and will update it weekly. The list contains the name of the requestor, a description of the records being sought and when the request was made.
The release said the agency is looking into whether it's technically feasible and appropriate to post all responses to public record requests online as well. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos said the agency is considering posting the responsive records as well.
Hackers had access to millions of Social Security numbers
Hackers who breached a Kansas Department of Commerce data system in March had access to more than 5.5 million Social Security numbers in 10 states, along with another 805,000 accounts that didn't include the Social Security numbers, according to records obtained from the agency.
The department will be required to pay for credit monitoring for most of the victims of the hacking, according to records obtained through an open records request by the Kansas News Service (http://bit.ly/2gQcgoq ).
Besides Kansas, the other states affected by the hack are Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Oklahoma, Vermont, Alabama and Illinois.
The Kansas News Service obtained the information through an open records request.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • July 20, 2017
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Missouri prisoner was assaulted, state workers lied
For as long as 10 days, one inmate at a state prison in Farmington sexually and physically abused a cellmate in a manner so severe that his prison term was extended 22 years. Austin Gallup ultimately pleaded guilty to abusing the St. Louis County man in 2013 in what the victim’s attorney calls torture. During that period, Missouri Department of Corrections employees failed to properly check on the two inmates, who were locked alone together in one of the more restricted areas of the prison. Moreover, the state workers falsified logs and failed to follow procedures aimed at protecting inmates from other prisoners. Those are among the new revelations in a state investigation obtained this month by the Post-Dispatch through an open records request.
Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/missouri-prisoner-was-repeatedly-assaulted-while-state-workers-lied-about/article_18243ea0-f317-5c8f-9aae-f78eae346680.html
Chicago Tribune: Emails show scope of scandal at Chicago's water department
City emails newly obtained by the Chicago Tribune cast light on the scope and offensiveness of racist, sexist and anti-gay slurs by politically connected supervisors at the top levels of the Chicago water department. An image of a Ku Klux Klan "scarecrow" amid a watermelon field, a picture of a naked woman on a beach and off-color comments about gay people found their way into inboxes between early 2013 and April — a month before an investigation of the emails led to high-ranking officials losing their jobs at the Department of Water Management. The emails, among nearly 1,300 provided by the city in response to a request under the Illinois open records law, include more overtly sexist and anti-black messages than those in an earlier, more limited batch obtained by the Tribune that also contained anti-Islamic insults. And the new emails for the first time reveal homophobic statements. They also show that they were sent and received during a yearslong period without any sign that supervisors, including recently ousted department Commissioner Barrett Murphy, did anything to quash the troubling chatter. And in at least one case, Murphy forwarded an offensive email to another department employee.
Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-water-department-scandal-emails-met-0603-20170602-story.html
Hundreds of Georgia inmates escape, but not for long
Fear and a frantic national search followed the escape last month of a pair of armed robbers who allegedly killed two correctional officers along a rural stretch of highway in Putnam County.
Prison breaks are often the stuff of Hollywood movies. But how often do convicts actually get loose? An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of data found that Georgia has recorded hundreds of inmate "escapes" in the past seven years. But few of them spur the kind of national dragnet that Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell Rowe's short-lived bid for freedom did. In fact, most are inmates on the verge of being released who simply walk away, records show. And more than half are back behind bars within days. … The AJC based its reporting on warrant logs provided by the DOC in response to an open records request.
Read more: www.AJC.com
Facebook fighting court order over law enforcement access
Facebook is fighting a court order that blocks the social media giant from letting users know when law enforcement investigators ask to search their online information, particularly their political affiliations and comments.
Major technology companies and civil liberties groups have joined Facebook in the case, which resembles legal challenges throughout the country from technology companies that oppose how the government seeks access to internet data in emails or social media accounts during criminal investigations, The Washington Post reported.
Facebook is arguing in the D.C. Court of Appeals that the order violates First Amendment protections of the company and individuals.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment. Many documents have been sealed in the case and hearings have been closed to the public.
The timing of the investigation and references in court documents that have been made public suggest the search warrants relate to demonstrations during President Donald Trump's inauguration, when more than 200 people were charged with rioting, the newspaper reported.
New York Times: Twitter users sue Trump over blocks
A group of Twitter users blocked by President Trump sued him and two top White House aides, arguing that his account amounts to a public forum that he, as a government official, cannot bar people from.
The blocked Twitter users, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, raised cutting-edge issues about how the Constitution applies to the social-media era. They say Mr. Trump cannot bar people from engaging with his account because they expressed opinions he did not like, such as mocking or criticizing him.
OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, FIRST AMENDMENT • July 13, 2017
News Journal: Public information appeals languish in AG’s office
Greenwood kettle corn maker Dan Kramer appreciates life in the slow lane. Except when it comes to state government, according to a story in The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware.
All told, the septuagenarian has spent more than four years waiting for the Attorney General's Office to rule on his public information requests, making him the longest-running petitioner in recent memory. "You're just sitting here, wondering what in the world is taking so long for them to come to a conclusion," drawls Kramer, who has filed six appeals with the state attorney general since 2011, four of them unsuccessful. "It totally flabbergasted me." State law mandates that Delaware's top law enforcement official rule on Freedom of Information Act appeals within 20 days. In reality, the appeals process drags on for months or even a year, long after governments vote on contracts or approve controversial developments, a News Journal analysis found.
Read more: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2017/07/07/ags-office-routinely-violated-open-records-laws/452156001/
Lexington Herald-Leader: 100 Kentucky students had their state test scores lowered to zero. Here’s why.
The 2015-16 statewide tests scores of 25 fourth-graders at Clark County’s Strode Station Elementary were lowered to zero after Kentucky Department of Education investigators determined that their teacher obtained a test booklet from a locked room without authorization and taught information from it before the exam, state documents show. In all, Kentucky education officials changed the test scores of at least 100 students to zero after violations of the testing code were found in 2015-16 on required statewide tests, the most recent year for which results are available. Because of the time the investigations into allegations took, superintendents across the state have been receiving letters of confirmation in 2017 for the violations that occurred in 2015-16. Some notification letters were dated as late as May 2017. …
Statewide, nearly 200 educators or school staff were required to have extra training when violations were found in the 2015-16 assessments, according to documents obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/education/article159057544.html
Media groups challenge privacy protections for Wetterling file
Ten media organizations are seeking to legally challenge the family of Jacob Wetterling over its attempt to keep private some investigative documents related to the 11-year-olds 1989 abduction and murder, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The Minnesota Newspaper Association, Minnesota Broadcasters Association and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information are among parties challenging a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Jacobs parents, Patty and Jerry Wetterling, to prevent the release of sensitive investigative documents that include personal information about their family.
The organizations are trying to intervene in the case because of concerns about the broader impact a judge’s potential ruling could have on state privacy laws. Interventions allow outside parties into a lawsuit to protect their interests.
Virginia high court rules against newspaper in lawsuit
A Virginia newspaper has lost a bid to compel the release of court records that would shed light on criminal defendants and cases across the state.
The Daily Press filed a lawsuit to get access to a database from the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia that the newspaper says would provide information such as the names and races of defendants.
Virginia's highest court upheld a lower court ruling denying the newspaper's request. The justices said the General Assembly has designated the court clerks as the "custodians" of court records, so the newspaper has to get the information from the individual clerks.
Marisa Porto, publisher and editor-in-chief for the Daily Press Media Group, based in Newport News, Virginia, said in a statement that she is "baffled" by the decision and believes the issue needs to be addressed by the General Assembly.
Poynter: Court rules on video recording case
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of journalists and ordinary bystanders video recording police. The three-judges appellate panel ruled in the cases of a Temple University student, Richard Fields, and Amanda Geraci, who was a member of a police watchdog group in Philadelphia called Up Against the Law.
The case drew a “friend of the court” brief from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and was joined by 31 other media organizations including the National Press Photographers Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, The Associated Press, Gannett, McClatchy, NPR, The New York Times, The Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.
The groups argued that the right to video-record police in a public place is a First Amendment right. And if the police could stop a bystander from recording an officer in a public place, then police could stop journalists too.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuits on behalf of Fields and Geraci.
Pennsylvania governor OKs bill removing police videos from open records law
A new Pennsylvania law exempts police audio and video recordings from the state's Right-to-Know Law, leaving the release of those records largely to the discretion of police.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill that also clears legal hurdles that kept police departments from using body cameras, likely expanding their use greatly.
The legislation was supported by police groups. Lawmakers passed it overwhelmingly. The American Civil Liberties Union opposed it, warning it'll keep police videos largely out of public view.
Judge says University of Kentucky violated open records law
The University of Kentucky violated the state’s Open Records Act by improperly withholding documents about a failed business deal between UK HealthCare and a Hazard cardiology firm from the Herald-Leader, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine ruled.
UK also violated the Open Meetings Act with an unannounced Power Point presentation about problems with the business deal to the UK Board of Trustees during what was supposed to be an informal dinner in May 2016, Goodwine ruled. UK failed to keep minutes of that meeting and refused to provide a copy of the Power Point presentation afterward once the Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky, requested it.
No one from the newspaper was present at the meeting, which did not have an agenda.
AP: Facebook now deleting 66,000 posts a week in anti-hate campaign
Facebook said that it has deleted about 66,000 posts a week in the last two months as the social media giant cracks down on what it deems to be hate speech.
The company said in a blog post that deleting posts can "feel like censorship," but that it is working on explaining its process better and improving its enforcement of hate speech.
Facebook defines hate speech as attacks on people based on their race, sexual orientation and other "protected characteristics." The Menlo Park, California, company said it mostly relies on its 2 billion users to report any hateful posts they see. Workers then review the posts and decide whether to delete it.
Facebook Inc. said it plans to hire an additional 3,000 people in the next year to review posts. That's on top of the 4,500 people it currently has reviewing posts.