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OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Dec. 14, 2017

Missouri attorney general weighs in on Confide messaging app 

Missouri's attorney general says that he's weighing whether to appoint a special investigator to check into use of the secretive Confide messaging app by several senior members of Gov. Eric Greitens' office. Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, was asked by Democratic state Sen. Scott Sifton of the St. Louis area to investigate after The Kansas City Star reported last week that it determined Greitens and some of his staff have Confide accounts connected to their personal cellphones. The app deletes messages and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages. Hawley said at a news conference Dec. 11 Monday that he can't directly investigate Greitens because he's defending the Republican governor's office in other legal cases, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . But Hawley could appoint a special investigator, and he said he's looking at case law to determine whether to do so.

Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article189196519.html

Minnesota school official suspended for handcuffing student 

A St. Paul, Minnesota, public schools assistant principal who had a middle school student handcuffed for being disruptive received a three-day suspension without pay. =The disciplinary letter signed by the assistant school superintendent says Gene Ward Jr. showed "extremely poor professional judgment" in his decision to have the student handcuffed. The Pioneer Press obtained details of Ward's January suspension through an open records request. The incident happened at Battle Creek Middle School after Ward questioned a student about cellphones stolen from a locker room. Ward's disciplinary letter says he ordered a security guard to handcuff the student because he was being loud and disruptive.

Ward told the newspaper he made his decision and "got consequences for it" and that he understands the concerns about placing students in handcuffs. He now works another school.

Missouri governor’s team facing pushback over messaging app 

Several senior members of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' office have accounts with a secretive app that erases messages after they've been read, raising concerns among government-transparency advocates that the app could be used to undermine open-record laws. The Kansas City Star reported that it determined the governor and some of his staff have Confide accounts connected to their personal cellphones. The app deletes messages and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages.

It's unclear whether the governor and his staff are using the app for state business, campaign work or other government communication, or for personal matters.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/missouri/articles/2017-12-07/missouri-governor-staff-use-secretive-app-to-communicate

Attorney general: Sex harassment complaints should be secret 

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel says he agrees with legislative leaders that sexual harassment complaints against lawmakers and their staff should be kept secret. Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly last week agreed that complaints will remain confidential out of respect for the privacy of the victims and those they have accused. Schimel has long touted himself as a champion of Wisconsin’s open records law. But he told The Associated Press during a year-end interview that the legislative leaders have struck the right balance. He said there's a strong argument for releasing the records so the public can see them and hold government officials accountable. On the other hand, victims typically report incidents with great reluctance and expect confidentiality.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/wisconsin/articles/2017-12-06/ag-agrees-sex-harassment-complaints-should-be-secret

OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Dec. 7, 2017

Wisconsin legislative leaders deny access to sexual harassment complaints

Wisconsin legislative leaders' recent decision to deny access to sexual harassment complaints against their fellow lawmakers and Capitol staffers is another example of how Wisconsin's top policymakers sometimes operate in secret, unbound by open meeting and records laws every other governmental body in the state must follow. Here are some key things to know about the refusal to release the complaints and how the Legislature plays by its own rules. The Associated Press and other news outlets asked the Senate and Assembly's chief clerks for complaints alleging sexual harassment their offices have compiled over the last decade. Senate Chief Clerk Jeff Renk and Assembly Chief Clerk Pat Fuller both said releasing complaints would have a chilling effect on people reporting incidents, and that outweighs the public's right to view the documents. The clerks work for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, both Republicans.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/sns-bc-wi--madison-matters-sexual-misconduct-records-20171203-story.html

Report: Whistleblower lawsuit in Kentucky child abuse case settled 

A Kentucky agency accused of trying to cover up mistakes in a child abuse case in which a girl was tortured has settled a whistleblower's lawsuit, a newspaper reports. As part of a sealed settlement on Nov. 13, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services paid former internal investigator Bridget Frailley $43,000, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported. It said it obtained the terms of the settlement in Franklin Circuit Court through the Open Records Act. The Herald-Leader reported in June that Frailley sued the agency, saying she had refused to falsify her reports on how the cabinet's child-protective office in Madison County erred by leaving a girl with her father and his then-girlfriend.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/kentucky/articles/2017-12-01/state-pays-43k-settles-suit-alleging-child-abuse-cover-up

ACLU files suit to force Nebraska to provide death penalty records 

The ACLU of Nebraska filed a lawsuit Dec. 1 alleging the Department of Corrections violated the state's open records act and asserting Corrections Director Scott Frakes must disclose records relating to lethal injection drugs. The organization said the department didn't comply with its open records requests related to Nebraska’s lethal injection protocols and information on the sources of execution drugs. The Lincoln Journal Star, the Associated Press and other media outlets have also reported their requests for records have been denied. The complaint is against Frakes and the Department of Corrections, and was filed in Lancaster County District Court. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Dawn-Renee Smith said the department does not comment on pending litigation. The Journal Star, AP and other media requested information on the suppliers of the drugs and other pertinent facts immediately after the state sent notification to death row inmate Jose Sandoval of the four drugs that would be used in a pending execution.

Read more: http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/aclu-files-suit-to-force-nebraska-to-provide-death-penalty/article_8e298af8-7f45-5579-9682-dfc9696ca681.html

NAACP seeks Tulsa police records on use-of-force, complaints 

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. has filed an open records request with the Tulsa police department seeking documents related to use-of-force incidents and complaints it's received from citizens. The group announced the request Dec. 1, and is also seeking copies of training manuals, community policing guidelines and records on stops and searches of suspects. The group says it has been monitoring citizen concerns about excessive force since last September, when a white Tulsa police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man. The officer, Betty Jo Shelby, was charged with manslaughter in the death of Terence Crutcher and was acquitted in May by a jury. Prosecutors argued that Shelby overreacted. Videos from a patrol car dashboard and a police helicopter showed Crutcher had his hands in the air.

2 papers sue over rejected requests for body-camera footage 

The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star allege in a lawsuit that Wichita officials didn't follow the state's open records law in denying access to police body-camera footage in two cases. The suit filed Dec. 1 in Sedgwick County District Court says officials were wrong not to release footage of an Iraqi man being handcuffed while trying to deposit a $151,000 check, which later was determined to be legitimate. The man alleges he was racially profiled. Also rejected was a request for footage of a case involving a Wichita police officer, who is alleged to have been involved in an off-duty hit-and-run crash. Eagle editor Steve Coffman says he hopes the lawsuit will bring clarity. City attorney Jennifer Magana didn't immediately return a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Report: Nebraska jails profiting from high phone call fees 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska says some counties in the state are profiting from exorbitant fees for phone calls made by inmates in jails. The organization began investigating the phone call system after receiving multiple complaints from families who were financially struggling to stay in touch with inmates. The ACLU of Nebraska used open records requests to gain information about the costs of calls. For-profit telephone companies contract with jails to handle collect and paid calls by inmates. Those contractors then give a portion of the profits to local counties. The report found that while inmates in state prisons can make a 15-minute call for $1.50, inmates in county jails may pay $7 to $19 for a similar call. The high fees limit inmates' access to the basic need of communicating with their families and lawyers, the ACLU of Nebraska said. County jail inmates are typically poor and can't afford to pay the phone fees, said Danielle Conrad, executive director of the ACLU.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/nebraska/articles/2017-12-01/report-nebraska-jails-profiting-from-high-phone-call-fees

Randy Travis loses legal bid to keep DUI footage private 
A federal judge has denied a request by country singer Randy Travis to stop the state of Texas from releasing footage of him naked and ranting during a 2012 DUI arrest. The ruling on a request for a preliminary injunction issued Thursday paves the way for the Texas Department of Public Safety to release the footage on Dec. 1, which was requested through open records requests. Travis' family has been in a long legal battle to stop the release of the footage that went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which denied his petition. Travis filed a federal lawsuit in September in Texas arguing that that the footage should be considered private under health record privacy regulations. But the judge said he did not show a substantial likelihood of success on the claims.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/texas/articles/2017-11-30/randy-travis-loses-legal-bid-to-keep-dui-footage-private

Missouri GOP group's Sunshine Law offensive aims to 'intimidate,' 'obstruct'

A 13-point open records request volleyed into the Missouri state auditor's office by a GOP-aligned group is an attempt to "intimidate" and "obstruct" efforts to review state agencies, Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, said Nov. 30. In a news release, Galloway said the Missouri Alliance for Freedom earlier this month "discontinued" requests filed earlier this year for open records — and filed a new, 13-point request. The move came two weeks before Galloway's office was scheduled to deliver "thousands of documents" to the group. The original records requests are the subject of a lawsuit the group's lawyers filed against the state auditor in July. The Alliance for Freedom originally asked for emails and documents connected to the auditor's probe of the state Department of Revenue and its slow processing of tax refunds, among other things. On Nov. 29, Galloway's taxpayer-paid legal team moved in Cole County Circuit Court to dismiss the lawsuit. They also want to stay indefinitely a discovery request by the alliance.

Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/gop-aligned-group-s-sunshine-law-offensive-meant-to-intimidate/article_b03482d4-06e0-5299-9e71-b20b81a2537c.html

Inquiry blisters Air Force Academy's sex-assault office 

An Air Force Academy office that was supposed to help sexual assault victims was crippled by infighting, poor management, rumors and shoddy record-keeping, an internal investigation found. The investigation concluded that the office was derelict in its duties and that the director should be fired, but she resigned, The Colorado Springs Gazette reported Nov. 26. The Gazette obtained a copy of the report under open record laws. The report said former director Teresa Beasley spread rumors about personnel and failed to manage the office effectively. It said under Beasley's leadership, the office wasn't competent to advocate for victims. No working phone number could be found for Beasley, and she didn't immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press through social media. The Air Force report said Beasley told investigators that for years she did not lead or manage the office well.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/inquiry-blisters-air-force-academys-sex-assault-office/2017/11/28/3c3e0e2e-d481-11e7-9ad9-ca0619edfa05_story.html?utm_term=.cb4e141b3dbb

Court documents reveal Trump paid $1.375M in labor lawsuit 

President Donald Trump paid $1.375 million in 1998 to settle a class-action lawsuit involving Polish laborers who demolished a building at the site of Trump Tower. That's according to the settlement agreement unsealed by a federal judge. The New York Times reports (http://nyti.ms/2ibY22O ) Judge Loretta Preska unsealed the settlement earlier this month in response to a motion filed in 2016 by Time Inc. and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Laborers had filed the suit in 1983 over the demolition of the Bonwit Teller building, where more than 200 Polish immigrants in the U.S. illegally worked 12-hour shifts for less than half of union wages and sometimes weren't paid. The Republican president has said he had no knowledge of what the project contractor was doing.

Fired Kentucky state worker sent personal mails to women 

A former University of Kentucky basketball player was fired from his job in the state’s Labor Cabinet last month after sending personal emails from his government computer to women who work in the cabinet, commenting in his messages on their appearance and calling one “too hot to trot.” The Courier Journal obtained the emails under the Kentucky Open Records Act. The newspaper said in one email, Winston Bennett told a cabinet employee she was "Too hot to trot. Especially on those skirt and dress days, lips stick matching. Lord have mercy. LOL!!! Not too old by a long shot." He regularly referred to another woman as "Princess." And he told another, "I just want to say you are a wonderful lady and I enjoy speaking with you. I also want to say you look very nice today. I hope my saying this does not mess up your shape, kind like eating a cup cake. You are very impressionable. Have a wonderful day."

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/fired-kentucky-state-worker-sent-personal-mails-to-women/2017/11/27/ae01b41c-d3c2-11e7-9ad9-ca0619edfa05_story.html?utm_term=.3d54b7f60b63

Kentucky officials bring reporter to court over open records 

Kentucky officials are suing a reporter to try to change the attorney general's decision that a state panel is subject to open meetings law. ]According to The State Journal , one of its reporters, Alfred Miller, is named in the Finance and Administration Cabinet's lawsuit in November. The State Journal appealed to the attorney general in September after requests were denied for meeting schedules, minutes and identities of who sits on the Built-to-Suit Selection Committee tasked with picking who demolishes and rebuilds the Capital Plaza Tower. A decision by Attorney General Andy Beshear and Assistant Attorney General Matt James said the Cabinet didn't provide a valid legal reason not to comply with state open meetings law.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/kentucky/articles/2017-11-24/kentucky-officials-bring-reporter-to-court-over-open-records

Kansas judge to review records on teen's 1988 disappearance 

A Kansas judge will read thousands of pages of investigative records focusing on the 1988 disappearance of a teenager before deciding whether to release the files to the teen's parents. The parents of Randy Leach, 17, have filed a lawsuit contending the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office and Leavenworth County violated the Kansas Open Records Act by refusing to release the records. The parents, Alberta and Harold Leach, asked the judge to order the release of all records related to their son's disappearance between April 1988 and December 1992, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Randy Leach was last seen that April at a high school graduation celebration in the county. He disappeared along with a car with no trace. No one has been charged and the car was never located.

Read more: http://cjonline.com/news/homicides/crime-courts/2017-11-20/kansas-judge-review-thousands-pages-records-randy-leachs-1988

OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Nov. 23, 2017

Campaign finance, open records bills among 1st proposed 

Campaign finance and public records bills are among the first to be filed for the upcoming Virginia legislative session. Democrats and Republicans in the House of Delegates unveiled several pieces of proposed legislation Monday, Nov. 19. Among the measures Democrats discussed in a conference call with reporters is one that would ban the personal use of campaign finance funds. Virginia currently has one of the least restrictive campaign finance systems in the country, with lawmakers only barred from using campaign funds for personal use once they close out their accounts. House Republicans filed three bills Monday. One would protect the personal information of public college students from being released through open records requests. It comes after a progressive political group used such requests to get students' cellphone numbers as part of a get-out-the-vote effort. The 2018 session convenes in January.

New Delaware policy requires screening of LLCs 

Delaware's secretary of state is implementing a new requirement to ensure the state's 1.3 million business entities are regularly screened against a federal database of terrorists, international drug traffickers and other criminals. The News Journal reported Monday, Nov. 19, that it learned of the move to rein in secretive limited liability companies through an open records request. The revised procedure, expected to be put in writing soon, will require all commercial agents representing more than 50 business entities to conduct quarterly checks, comparing their lists of clients against a federal sanctions list.

For smaller registered agents, the Delaware State Department will handle the checks.

Delaware is one of the easiest states in which to set up a company. According to the newspaper, it leads the nation in the number of registered companies without physical homes in the state.

Shootings by officers, other Kansas cases cloaked in secrecy 

Some Kansas police departments do not identify officers involved in fatal shootings, and body camera footage from the incidents may never become public. Records in unsolved criminal cases can remain closed indefinitely, even to victims' families. Grieving families can wait years to get answers about relatives who've been killed, and weak state transparency laws can allow law enforcement agencies to avoid public scrutiny, The Kansas City Star reports . And Kansas is less open than other states, including neighboring Missouri. Kansas in 2014 became the last state in the nation to open affidavits that spell out the details behind arrests, though judges in some counties still seal them. A 2016 state law designated officers' body camera footage as a criminal investigation record, meaning that without a court order, authorities can refuse to make it public.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/shootings-by-officers-other-kansas-cases-cloaked-in-secrecy/2017/11/19/195d6fb4-cd40-11e7-a87b-47f14b73162a_story.html?utm_term=.56c9b3bc6579

Wichita police chief wants review of body camera policies 

Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said he would like to share more with the public — both in terms of information and footage from body cameras — but policies in place limit what he can do. Ramsay said he wants a “comprehensive review of our video policies to make sure we’re up to national standards and best practices.” The chief’s comments were made on a video posted to the Wichita Police Department’s Facebook page Wednesday, Nov. 15, in which Ramsay discussed transparency. Police officials have drawn criticism recently over their handling of a reported hit-and-run that allegedly involved an off-duty police officer. The FBI is now investigating the department’s internal investigation of Tiffany Dahlquist, who resigned from the department last month. Ramsay’s video about transparency had collected nearly 8,500 views less than a day after it was posted. Ramsay said the department has been “more transparent in providing information when an officer is arrested” than under previous chiefs.

Read more: http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article184900558.html

Mississippi newspaper wins dispute over government records 

The Mississippi Supreme Court is siding with a newspaper in its longstanding effort to get documents from a state agency. In a decision Thursday, Nov. 16, justices said Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel ruled correctly that documents from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources are public records. Officials had claimed the documents were investigative records and did not have to be disclosed under the state's Public Records Act.

The Sun Herald sought the records in 2012. State Auditor Stacey Pickering's office subpoenaed the records and obtained a ruling that said the subpoena prevented Marine Resources from handing over the records. The Sun Herald reported that justices on Thursday also ordered the auditor's office to pay the newspaper's legal fees of about $37,000. Officials have 14 days to request a rehearing. The Supreme Court agreed with Schloegel's ruling that the auditor's office violated the Public Records Act.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/mississippi/articles/2017-11-16/mississippi-newspaper-wins-dispute-over-government-records

Kansas media groups drop open records suit against governor 

Three Kansas media organizations have dropped a lawsuit against Gov. Sam Brownback over his office's refusal to release records related to a state magistrate judge's appointment.

The Associated Press, Hutchinson News and Kansas Press Association last week submitted an agreement with Brownback's office to dismiss the case in Shawnee County District Court. Judge Larry Hendricks approved it. The organizations sued in 2015 to obtain documents from applicants for a Reno County magistrate judge's position. Brownback's office argued they were personnel records exempt from disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act. Hendricks put the case on hold in 2016 while the Kansas Court of Appeals reviewed another lawsuit over the same issue in the appointment of two Saline County commissioners in 2014. The appeals court ruled against the AP and Salina Journal in that case.

Judge backs South Carolina news media in fight over Republican caucus records 

A judge has refused a request by South Carolina House Republicans to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a coalition of news outlets — including The Post and Courier, of Charleston, South Carolina — challenging the party's caucus contention it has a constitutional right to ban public access to its meetings and records. The filing doesn't immediately settle the news media's case, but it does give support to the argument that caucus activities should be open under current state law. News media attorney Jay Bender earlier argued that a self-written rule the House passed to exempt its caucuses from public scrutiny cannot replace the state's legislatively vetted Freedom of Information Act.

Read more: http://www.postandcourier.com/politics/judge-sides-with-south-carolina-news-media-in-fight-over/article_e0d4b944-c958-11e7-b441-cbc6669b4256.html

OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Nov. 16, 2017

Indiana officials close records on school district 

State officials won't release a new report that examines health insurance costs at an eastern Indiana school district. The decision to withhold the information comes as the public prepares to comment on whether the state should take control of the financially struggling Muncie Community Schools, The Star Press reported. The state-appointed emergency managers overseeing the district will also soon make recommendations about whether to cut academic programs, close schools and eliminate teaching positions. The state's Distressed Unit Appeal Board signed a contract last month with emergency management firm Administrator Assistance for the audit. The report was compiled by RE Sutton & Associates, an employee-benefit and insurance brokerage consultant. It aims to provide the district and emergency managers with information about acquiring a new health insurance plan, which makes it exempt from the Access to Public Records Act, said Daniel Shackle, an attorney representing the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

Read more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-in--muncie-schools-20171110-story.html

North Dakota governor knew of commissioner's arrest weeks before revealed 

Gov. Doug Burgum learned of the North Dakota tax commissioner's recent drunken driving arrest more than two weeks before it was publicly disclosed. Spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Nov. 8 that Burgum learned within days of Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger's Sept. 30 arrest. Rauschenberger disclosed it on Oct. 20. Nowatzki says Rauschenberger is an "independently elected official" and it was up to him when to disclose the arrest. Nowatzki says the case was filed on Oct. 6 and became a record accessible to the public at that time.

Democratic-NPL executive director Scott McNeil in a statement criticized Burgum for "withholding" the news. The timing issue surfaced as part of emails and text messages that political blogger and former Democratic state Sen. Tyler Axness obtained through an open records request.

Arkansas got execution drug made by resistant manufacturer 

One of the three drugs Arkansas planned to use in a lethal injection this week was made by a New York company that says it won't sell its products if it fears they'll be used in executions, court documents released Nov. 8 show. A package insert and drug label for the state's supply of midazolam released by the state in Pulaski County Circuit Court identifies Athenex as the maker of the drug, one of three used in Arkansas' lethal injection process. The insert was included as part of an affidavit filed by state Correction Department officials.

The affidavit was filed the day after Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce ordered the Department of Correction to release a copy of the insert to Steven Shults, an attorney who had sued the state for the document. The Arkansas Supreme Court last week ruled that a state law keeping the source of Arkansas' execution drugs secret applied to suppliers and sellers, but not drug manufacturers.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2017-11-08/new-york-company-idd-as-maker-of-arkansas-execution-drug

Public report not created in Topeka man's shooting by police 

An advocate for open government contends the Topeka and Lawrence police departments are trying to bypass the state's open records laws by not creating a standard public document on the fatal shooting of a man by Topeka police officers more than a month ago.

Both departments have denied requests for incident and offense reports on the Sept. 28 shooting of Dominique White, which is being investigated by the Lawrence police department. They have not created the first page of the Kansas Standard Offense Report, which is a public record under state law and is routinely released, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Ron Keefover, president of the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, said he had never heard of a police department failing to issue such a report.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/kansas/articles/2017-11-08/public-report-not-created-in-topeka-mans-shooting-by-police

OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Nov. 10, 2017

Slain man was shot in back by police, death certificate says 

The death certificate for a black man killed by police in Kansas' capital city in September says he died from gunshot wounds to his back. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that it obtained a copy of Dominique White's death certificate Saturday. The document isn't a public record. Topeka police said initially that White was shot after a struggle and that at least one shot struck his chest. The death certificate lists "gunshot wounds of back" as the immediate cause of death for White, who was 30 and just months out of prison after being prosecuted for burglary and illegal gun possession. Kelly White, his father, said he believes his son was running away from Topeka police when he was killed. Police authorities declined Monday, Nov. 6, to release body camera footage from the officers involved in the shooting and other officers at the scene. Each department cited provisions of the Kansas Open Records Act that allow law enforcement agencies to keep criminal investigation records closed.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article183070596.html

North Dakota attorney general says city violated open records laws 

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the city of Mandan violated open records laws by failing to respond to a request in a timely manner.

The city on June 24 received a request for records relating to the employment of a certain named individual and did not respond until July 18. City officials say the delay was due to numerous inquiries from the requester, as well as dealing with its budget and other deadlines. Stenehjem says the city failed to respond to the request within a reasonable time. He says while there are no further measures to be taken by the city, it should review its obligations under open records laws

Court: Withheld evidence means new trial in racial killing 

Three U.S. servicemen who have been in prison for 25 years for a racially-motivated murder are entitled to a new trial because prosecutors improperly withheld evidence that would have helped the men's defense, Georgia's highest court ruled Thursday, Nov. 2. Stanley Jackson, a black man, was fatally shot around 10 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1992, while standing on a corner in a high-crime part of Savannah. Three white servicemen stationed at nearby Fort Stewart — Mark Jason Jones, Kenneth Eric Gardiner and Dominic Brian Lucci — were arrested less than an hour later and charged with murder. State prosecutors failed to disclose a police report that described a similar racially-motivated incident later that night after they were in custody, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice P. Harris Hines wrote in a unanimous opinion. After police records were released in response to a 2010 open records request, the three men challenged their conviction on constitutional grounds.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/georgia/articles/2017-11-02/court-withheld-evidence-means-servicemen-deserve-new-trial

Georgia attorney general quits defense in server wiping case 

The Georgia attorney general's office will no longer represent the state's top elections official in an elections integrity lawsuit filed three days before a crucial computer server was quietly wiped clean. The lawsuit aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily questioned touchscreen election technology, which does not provide an auditable paper trail. The server in question was a statewide staging location for key election-related data. It made headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn't fixed for six months after he first reported it to election authorities. Personal data was exposed for Georgia's 6.7 million voters, as were passwords used by county officials to access files.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/technology/article/Georgia-attorney-general-quits-defense-in-server-12323451.php

Wisconsin Assembly Committee passes bill limiting access to police body cams 

It would be more difficult for the public to view footage taken on police body cameras under a Republican-backed bill that won approval from a Wisconsin Assembly committee Tuesday, Oct. 31, over objections from Democrats and open records advocates.Opponents say the measure, which has support from law enforcement agencies across the state, will worsen relations between the police and communities they serve. Supporters say it will protect the privacy of people captured on body camera footage while also establishing statewide guidelines. Thirty other states have laws related to police body cameras. Of those, 18 address how data captured on the cameras are handled under open records laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/committee-passes-bill-limiting-access-to-police-body-cams/2017/10/31/6609e54a-be77-11e7-9294-705f80164f6e_story.html?utm_term=.0a5d553befef

OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Nov. 2, 2017

Records: Connecticut offered to buy campus to hold onto GE 

Before General Electric decided to relocate its long-established Connecticut headquarters, state officials offered to buy the company's sprawling 66-acre suburban campus so GE could move to a more urban area within the state. It was one of three options offered by Connecticut officials, according to a proposal presented to GE in hopes of fending off a move. The proposal reveals the lengths Connecticut officials were willing to go through to keep the cache of GE and hundreds of jobs in the state. A draft copy of Connecticut's proposal, obtained by AP through an open records request, shows photos and details of various office complexes, mostly in Stamford, which is about 34 miles northeast of New York City and located along Amtrak and commuter rail lines.

Read more: https://www.boston.com/news/business/2017/10/30/records-connecticut-offered-to-buy-campus-to-hold-onto-ge

Judge: State police must turn over pay stubs, overtime data 

A judge has told the New Jersey state police they must hand over employee pay stubs and overtime data to an open records advocate who sued for them. State Police officials maintain that disclosing how much troopers make in overtime would pose a security threat because the top overtime earners often work in sensitive areas. The records are being sought by John Paff, an open records advocate who regularly files records requests and posts the results on his blog. His attorney told NJ Advance Media she found the duty assignments of multiple troopers who work in sensitive areas by using information found on social media sites, including the state police Facebook page. The state Attorney General's Office, which represented the state police, declined comment on whether they would appeal.

Ohio proposal to release some grand jury records open for comment 

The public can submit comments on a proposed rule change that could lead to some Ohio grand jury records being released to the public. The Columbus Dispatch reports a task force appointed by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor in the wake of police shootings recommended the rule change last year concerning secret grand jury proceedings.

The aim of the task force was to increase the public's confidence in the grand jury system following fatal police shootings of blacks that resulted in no criminal charges against officers. The change would allow members of the public to petition a court to open records of grand jury proceedings. The Supreme Court has until mid-January to decide whether to submit the change to the Ohio Legislature for approval.

Iowa State Patrol leader began outside firm without approval 

An Iowa State Patrol commander started a consulting firm prior to receiving mandatory approval for outside work and is using photos of himself at government-funded training events to promote the fledgling venture, a review by The Associated Press shows. Capt. Ken Clary, who oversees dozens of troopers who patrol northeastern Iowa, is a founding partner of the year-old Brinkley, Clary and Thomas LLC, which advertises law enforcement litigation and recruitment services. His partners are Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley and Barry Thomas, chief deputy of the Story County Sheriff's Office in Ames. The corporation's website shows a photo of Clary at the FBI National Academy, noting that he was one of 225 law enforcement executives picked to attend the "prestigious training." The state spent $1,867.44 sending Clary to the 10-week program, which concluded in September and was also subsidized by the FBI, according to records obtained through an open records request.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article181278126.html

Georgia election server wiped after suit filed 

A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned. The server's data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state's election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe. The lawsuit, filed July 3 by a diverse group of election reform advocates, aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized election technology. The server in question, which served as a statewide staging location for key election-related data, made national headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn't fixed six months after he reported it to election authorities.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/apnewsbreak-georgia-election-server-wiped-after-suit-filed/2017/10/26/8fa8c578-ba36-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.0aa91dba2596

Juvenile inmates reached prison roof, threw items at guards 

Four juvenile inmates reached the roof of a Wisconsin prison housing unit in August, throwing shingles, rocks and pieces of metal at guards before they were subdued, an incident report released Oct. 26 under the state open records law shows. The incident is among a stream of violent clashes between guards and inmates at the prison since a federal court order in July requiring a reduction in the use of pepper spray and solitary confinement. The shared campuses of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons, which house about 160 boy and girl juvenile inmates, have been under federal investigation for nearly three years and are the subject of multiple lawsuits.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/juvenile-inmates-reached-prison-roof-threw-items-at-guards/2017/10/26/5fe3b200-ba84-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.4f4fdd1caf19

University violated law by denying newspaper's request 

A ruling by Kentucky's attorney general says the University of Louisville violated the state's open records law by denying a newspaper's request for emails on the former university president's hard drive. The Courier-Journal requested emails between university officials in June, which the school rejected, citing an ongoing investigation. The Oct. 17 ruling states there's nothing in the record to indicate how the release of the evidence would have negatively impacted the investigation. University spokesman John Karman says the university will continue to study the ruling before determining any steps. Former President James Ramsey's hard drive was the focus of auditors who were looking into his alleged misspending. The computer was wiped clean by the school's information technology department despite an order to preserve the hard drive and other records.

South Carolina GOP Caucus wants records suit by AP dismissed 
South Carolina Republicans want a judge to dismiss a media lawsuit seeking records involving a political consultant charged in a probe of possible Statehouse corruption. A judge is hearing arguments from the state House Republican Caucus on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The media coalition, which includes The Associated Press, wants the caucus declared to be a public body, subject to the state's Freedom of Information Act, and therefore required to make its records and meetings public. The caucus denied a request to view records of payments to the firms of Richard Quinn and his son, former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, both of whom face criminal conspiracy charges.

City agrees to redact personal info from crash reports 

A Tennessee city will stop releasing traffic accident reports with unredacted personal information following a federal lawsuit questioning the efficacy of an ethical rule requiring attorneys to wait 30 days before contacting someone involved in a serious crash.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports Chattanooga was ordered to prepare redacted copies in compliance with Tennessee Office of Open Records policy. City Attorney Phil Noblett says driver's license numbers, names and addresses will only be provided to involved parties, their lawyers or their insurance companies. Record requestors who use the information for wrongful solicitation could be charged with a misdemeanor. Attorney Jay Kennamer filed the lawsuit in September after a medical company contacted a woman days after she had been in a crash and offered to refer her to an attorney.

South Carolina GOP Caucus: Open records law doesn't apply 

South Carolina Republicans have defended their decision not to give reporters records involving a political consultant charged in a probe of possible Statehouse corruption in their state, arguing Wednesday, Oct. 25, that the courts have no purview over their internal decision-making. The arguments came during a hearing over whether a judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed in April against the House Republican Caucus by a coalition of media outlets including The Associated Press. The coalition has been looking for items sought by special prosecutor David Pascoe in his ongoing probe into allegations of corruption in South Carolina's Statehouse.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/south-carolina-gop-caucus-wants-records-suit-by-ap-dismissed/2017/10/25/0d2a180a-b97c-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.360bbae1c6f9

BuzzFeed sues Kris Kobach over denied records requests 

BuzzFeed Inc. is suing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his office for refusing to release emails containing any of 30 terms that relate to immigration or the election. The lawsuit comes after a BuzzFeed reporter asked Kobach's office in June for emails sent or received May 1 that include terms such as ICE, immigrant, Trump, voter, fraud and Mexican. The secretary of state's office at first asked for $1,025 for 13 hours of work and an attorney's review, then refused to release any records when the reported challenged the cost, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Shawnee County District Court. BuzzFeed is asking that Kobach's office be ordered to provide the documents and pay for attorney fees, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/10/24/us/ap-us-buzzfeed-kobach-lawsuit.html?_r=0

Parents of teenager who vanished in 1988 hope for answers 

The parents of a Kansas teenager who vanished nearly 30 years ago hope a trial next month will provide clues about whether their son was murdered after he was last seen at a high school graduation party and if his disappearance was properly investigated. Harold and Alberta Leach of Linwood, Kansas, sued Leavenworth County in civil court after county officials rejected their request through the state's open records act to see documents from the April 1988 through December 1992 investigation of 17-year-old Randy Leach's disappearance. The parents believe Randy is dead but said they filed the lawsuit because they have done everything they can think of to find answers.

Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article180567331.html

Georgia's immigration enforcement panel draws scrutiny 

When Georgia lawmakers passed a sweeping law cracking down on illegal immigration in 2011, they created a board to hold state and local government officials accountable. Over the next six years the Immigration Enforcement Review Board received 20 complaints to investigate, according to documents obtained through Georgia’s Open Records Act. And all but one came from the same person: D.A. King, a longtime anti-illegal immigration activist from Marietta. King, who has sparred with advocates for immigrants, said he helped develop the comprehensive state law that created the board, House Bill 87. So far, only one of the 20 complaints the board has received has resulted in a sanction: Atlanta paid the board a $1,000 fine in August.

Read more: http://www.readingeagle.com/ap/article/georgias-immigration-enforcement-panel-draws-scrutiny

OPEN RECORDS, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION • Oct. 26, 2017

More than a dozen states still refuse to release voter data 
These are state-by-state responses to a request for detailed voter data from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is investigating voter fraud. The information indicates whether a state is willing to comply with, is denying or is undecided on the request for data. Some of the states that are willing to comply have fees or other requirements of the commission. All states that have agreed to comply are withholding some details the commission sought and are releasing only information considered public under state law. The commission sent one request in late June and another in July after a court said the data collection could move ahead.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/more-than-a-dozen-states-still-refuse-to-release-voter-data/2017/10/22/ff4a19ce-b732-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.d020492b3800

Justice Department won't release North Charleston report 

The U.S. Justice Department has refused to release a report on the North Charleston Police Department after the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a white officer in South Carolina. The federal agency said it was holding onto the material because of its "commitment to respecting local law enforcement," The Post and Courier of Charleston reported. The newspaper filed an open records request for the report sought by North Charleston officials after the 2015 shooting of Walter Scott. The Justice Department's Chaun Eason said the Justice Department no longer releases reports of investigations of local police. In April 2015, Scott was pulled over for a traffic violation by patrolman Michael Slager, who said he fired in self-defense when Scott tried to grab his Taser. Eyewitness video shows Scott was shot as he ran away. Slager pleaded guilty to federal charges and awaits sentencing.

Read more: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/south-carolina/articles/2017-10-20/justice-department-wont-release-north-charleston-report

Emails: Protests spur college officials to talk with players

As protests over racial injustice grab national attention in pro sports, some college and university officials are having pre-emptive talks with student-athletes and consulting each other amid concerns that such actions will spread to college sports, according to emails released Thursday. After five black cheerleaders at Kennesaw State University knelt during the national anthem at a September football game, athletic officials there sought advice from their counterparts at schools including the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Duke University and Purdue University. The responses they got back offer a glimpse at what's happening in college athletic programs trying to strike a balance between supporting free expression and offending fans and donors. The emails were released Thursday in response to a request for Kennesaw State documents under Georgia's open records law. It was filed by Davante Lewis, the brother of the one of the cheerleaders who took a knee.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/emails-protests-spur-college-officials-to-talk-with-players/2017/10/19/aaf0855c-b511-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html?utm_term=.3366df27bd1c

Court: UW must turn over notes to animal rights group 

A Wisconsin appeals court says an animal rights group is entitled to a University of Wisconsin System animal experimentation oversight committee's meeting notes. A Dane County judge ruled last year that the Animal Legal Defense Fund wasn't entitled to 10 documents created during an Animal Care and Use Committee meeting in March 2014. The judge said the documents were notes prepared for the originator's personal use and therefore not subject to the state's open records law. The 4th District Court of Appeals reversed that ruling Thursday, Oct. 19. The court found the documents are notes but they were shared among UW employees to create the meeting's minutes and therefore weren't prepared for their creators' personal use. The state Justice Department represented UW. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos says agency attorneys are reviewing the decision.

Texts: Sheriff, lawmaker pushed to stop cheerleader protest 

A powerful lawmaker texted a Georgia sheriff and recounted with pride how the two pressured a university president to take action after black cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem at a football game. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the text messages under Georgia's open records act. Kennesaw State University cheerleaders were told they'd be kept off the field in a stadium tunnel at future pregame activities after five of them knelt to protest racial injustice at the game Sept. 30. In the texts, state Republican Rep. Earl Ehrhart and Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren thanked each other for their patriotism. Ehrhart said Kennesaw State President Sam Olens had to be pressed to act.

"He had to be dragged there but with you and I pushing he had no choice. Thanks for your patriotism my friend," Ehrhart wrote to the sheriff.

Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/texts-sheriff-lawmaker-pushed-stop-cheerleader-protest-50562458#

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/

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