Transparency Watch

Cuomo administration policy allows state to delete emails of government employees

According to WNYC, "New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration — which the governor pledged would be the most transparent in state history — has quietly adopted policies that allow it to purge the emails of tens of thousands of state employees, cutting off a key avenue for understanding and investigating state government."

"Last year, the state started deleting any emails more than 90 days old that users hadn’t specifically saved — a much more aggressive stance than many other states. The policy shift was first reported by the Albany Times Union."

Public records request service sues CIA over FOIA practices

MuckRock is suing the CIA over a handful of specific FOIA requests that would shed light on how the agency determines what is and isn’t releasable, among other things.

The CIA “has a track record of holding itself apart from, and largely above, the Freedom of Information Act, consistently ignoring deadlines, refusing to work with requesters, and capriciously rejecting even routine requests for what should be clearly public information,” MuckRock wrote in a blog post.

The suit also addresses the way the CIA handles general requests for emails.

You can learn more about the individual FOIA requests involved in ...

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News organizations file lawsuits against Missouri for failing to release execution drug records

Missouri's failure to release records regarding the drugs it uses in executions keeps the public from providing oversight of the death penalty. That's what the Associated Press and four other news organizations are arguing in a suit filed Thursday against the state. Another suit filed the same day by a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri also challenges the secrecy.

The journalists say the public has a constitutional right to know what drugs are being used in executions carried out by the ...

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Louisiana failed to turn over key public records about execution drugs

Documents entered into court record in the lawsuit of one prisoner on death row show that the Louisiana Department of Corrections had documents that would have fulfilled a records request made by The Lens in 2013.

The Lens, a non-profit newsroom in New Orleans, had previously requested records pertaining to the purchase and inventory of the state's supply of pentobarbital, as well as communications about the lethal injection drug. The only documents received in response to this request were ones showing that the department had purchased the drug for about $5,000. A later request also asked for records ...

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Cuomo administration maintains secrecy, uses private email for official business

Some New York state officials are using private email accounts to conduct official business. One reporter at ProPublica received an email from Howard Glaser, director of state operations and a top adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, regarding an open records request. This email was sent from Glaser's personal email account. But later, when the reporter filed a request for emails sent from Glaser's private account, he was informed that the state had no such records. Even after submitting the request again (this time with the email that he had received from Glaser attached as evidence) the ...

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Virginia Supreme Court: FOIA does not cover faculty emails, unpublished research

Faculty emails and unpublished university research can be deemed “proprietary” and withheld under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Virginia Supreme Court announced last week.

The law was called into question in 2011 when the American Tradition Institute and Virginia Del. Robert Marshall filed a request for emails of Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist and former University of Virginia professor.

According to the Washington Post:

Lawyers for U-Va. turned over about 1,000 documents to Marshall and ATI, led by former EPA attorney David Schnare, but withheld another 12,000 papers and e-mails, saying that work “of a ...

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Mississippi Ethics Commission rules in favor of records request for text messages

The city of Tupelo, Miss. violated open-records laws by not providing the Daily Journal with text messages it requested last year.

The paper had requested the texts from the mayor's personal cell phone over the course of three days last October, when a city official resigned, the Journal wrote.

The Mississippi Ethics Commission all agreed that the mayor's texts were considered open records under state open records laws.

"'Any text message used by a city official in the conduct, transaction or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty or function of (the city), or required to be maintained ...

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Sunshine Week: A look at what's coming up in freedom of information legislation

In many states, recent or pending legislation could impact the transparency of public information. Though several states are taking strides to make public records more open and accessible, a few seem to be adding obstacles to obtaining public information. Here's a breakdown of what's happened in recent months and what could be on the horizon.

AlabamaSB 191, which passed the Senate in February and is pending in the House, would amend the Open Meetings Act. The bill is chiefly concerned with regulating “serial meetings.” These meetings are used to deliberate an issue, but require no quorum or ...

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Sunshine Week coverage of open government violations, FOI laws and more

To celebrate Sunshine Week we'll be sharing exclusive audio, tipsheets and reporting on FOIA battles and open government. Newspapers across the country kicked off the week with stories analyzing FOIA responses and violations. Here's a look at some of the coverage:

 

Few cited for open government violations | Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team

Public officials in Wisconsin can be fined hundreds of dollars for violating open government laws, but only seven citations have been imposed in the past five years for open meetings violations, and none for public records cases,court records show.

Prosecutors say this is because public ...

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Mass. newspaper reporter catches city employees burning public records

A reporter from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass. caught city employees burning reams of public records, all without approval from the state.

Old purchase orders, payroll records and utility bills, along with a handful of other documents, went up in smoke. The city’s public works commissioner “emphasized that all of the records burned in recent weeks were old and useless,” according to the paper.

The revelation has caused all kinds of problems for city officials, who said they “jumped the gun.”

It gets even worse:

"Not only were the DPW records disposed of without permission, the manner in ...

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