Tags : Transparency Watch

Sunshine Week audio playlist, tipsheets and more

All week long we've been celebrating Sunshine Week by sharing some of our best tips, tricks and techniques for filing successful Freedom of Information Act requests.

Deborah Nelson, Kirsten Mitchell, Mike Ravnitzky and Kate Willson talked about the importance of using documents and offered ideas for beefing up your records requests.

The crew from FOIA Machine talked about how you can use the tool to streamline your FOIA requests.

We've compiled all of their clips (each under five minutes) in a Soundcloud playlist.

 

 

Looking for more FOIA resources?

Check out our FOIA Story Pack: Get an in-depth ...

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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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NYPD denies FOIA request for department FOIA guide

The New York Police Department’s Freedom of Information Law Unit is refusing to release its FOIL guide. Yes, you read that right.

Public records request service MuckRock asked for the document in late December. Last week a lieutenant in the department’s records unit denied the request, calling the guide “privileged as an attorney-client communication.”

You can be sure MuckRock is appealing the decision.

NJ court fact-finder recommends Gannett get its due for winning public records fight over PDFs

If a judge agrees with a court fact-finder, Gannett New Jersey could be getting $542,000 in legal fees stemming from a public records lawsuit.

Gannett filed suit in 2009 after several newspapers asked for municipal payroll records in an electronic format, not PDFs. In August 2012 the company won the “precedent-setting case.”

As for the legal fees, “The borough might have come out ahead if it had cut its losses in 2012, when Gannett first sought reimbursement of $495,491. As the borough continued to file motions, the media company’s legal fees continued to mount. By April 2013 ...

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To speed up ‘FOIA slowpokes,’ journalists mix praise and shame

When I was a reporter at a daily newspaper in Virginia, few things frustrated me more than slow responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. I’d put in my request and wait the allotted response time only to receive a handful of excuses. Sometimes, after weeks of nagging, I’d get the documents. Other times my request was strangled to death by red tape.

FOIA statistics are grim. According to MuckRock, a public records request service, about 27 percent of requests go unfulfilled in the first three months.

But when agencies dig in their heels, reporters often have limited ...

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18 Chris Christie investigations coming to a publication near you

WNYC today compiled a clever list of “18 ways Christie and his officials have blocked access to information.”

The release of the subpoenaed documents “exposed the Christie Administration's involvement in Bridgegate show how the Governor's Office has been keeping its decisions and expenditures quiet despite laws that require official business to be made public.”

The state secrets include everything from visitors at the governor’s mansion to State Police overtime data to taxpayer-funded attorneys representing Christie in abuse-of-power investigations.

A handful of lawsuits have already been filed over the exemptions and redactions. We’re looking forward to the ...

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Court rules in favor of S.D. paper, allows access to food stamp data

A federal appeals court has ruled that Argus Leader Media can seek government data on how much businesses take in from the food stamp program, the Sioux Falls, S.D. paper reported.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a district court ruling and determined that a federal statute that created the food stamp program does not prohibit the USDA from disclosing the revenues businesses earn from it.

Last year Jonathan Ellis, of the Argus Leader, wrote about the paper’s lawsuit:

"By the start of 2011, we had assembled a national database that showed ...

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Committee to Protect Journalists releases report on Obama administration and the press

The Committee to Protect Journalists released a report today titled The Obama Administration and the Press, stating that “electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists.”

President Barack Obama pledged open government as he entered office, but his administration has fallen far short of those promises, according to CPJ. Since 2009, six government employees and two contractors have been subjects of criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act, compared to three in all previous administrations. Also, the Justice Department engaged in direct surveillance of the press by issuing subpoenas for reporters’ phone logs and emails.

Compounding journalists' concerns ...

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A look at how journalists are handling the shutdown

Journalists have been searching for alternative resources after the government shutdown caused many online databases to go down and government offices to close as employees went on furlough.  For more information about how the shutdown is affecting news coverage, see the stories below.  

For information on closed FOIA offices:
Both the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and MuckRock are keeping lists of closed FOIA offices.  The FOIA blog is posting regular updates related to any effects of the government shutdown.

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Report from U.S. Senate committee claims EPA lacks transparency


Minority members of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a report on Sept. 9, 2013 claiming that the EPA has "a dismal history of competently and timely responding to FOIA requests," has failed to adequately train staff members on FOIA policies, has shown bias in deciding to honor fee waiver requests, and has misused email accounts. 

Central to the committee's complaints is former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's use of a secondary email account and occasional use of a fake alias to respond to emails.  Jackson also used a personal account to correspond with a ...
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