In this week’s FOIA round-up, House Democrats look to increase funding to the Interior Department’s FOIA office, records show Amazon collaborated with local law enforcement on sting operations to deter package theft, and a Cornell University law student sues a South Carolina county for excessive fees.
See a great use of public records we missed? Send over your favorite FOIA stories via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next round-up. And if you’d like even more inspiration, read past round-ups.
Democrats ask for money to be directed to Interior Department’s FOIA office
Democrats in the House of Representatives are requesting that the House Appropriations Committee direct enough funds for the Interior Department to hire “at least ten FTEs [full-time employees]” for their FOIA office. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), and Representatives TJ Cox (D-California) and Harley Rouda (D-California) are leading the charge for a more transparent Interior Department. Along with this most recent request for money to hire more FOIA staffers, Grijalva and Cox have asked for more money to be directed to the department’s Office of the Inspector General, which serves as the watchdog for the Interior Department.
Since Trump took office, the agency has seen a dramatic spike in FOIA requests. Back in January of this year, the Interior Department sought to alter how they deal with FOIA requests; however, no changes have been made as of yet.
Read more about the request here.
Amazon collaborated with local law enforcement to create decoy packages
Amazon collaborated with law enforcement in Hayward, California, to catch package thieves by placing decoy Amazon boxes on porches in neighborhoods susceptible to stolen packages. Law enforcement and members of Amazon’s “Logistics Loss Prevention” team communicated for months about “Operation Safe Porch,” and Hayward law enforcement used GPS, radio, and vehicles in the program, including “an assigned undercover vehicle for surveillance and covert operations.”
Hayward, CA, isn’t the only city partnering with Amazon to set up porch sting operations, however. Law enforcement in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Aurora, Colorado and Jersey City, New Jersey are conducting similar operations to “Operation Safe Porch.”
You can read more about the Amazon and law enforcement partnership here.
Law student sues South Carolina county over FOIA fees
Cornell University law student Emily Christianson is suing Horry County, South Carolina, after receiving an estimated fee of $2,000 despite previous emails telling her that she would get responsive documents concerning county homicides for free. Christianson first visited the County Clerk of Court’s office in person to ask about the documents, where an employee told her that the documents were accessible online and that she would email her warrants, sentencing sheets, and indictments that related to the 211 cases she requested for free. Despite this statement, Christianson was later told that she would have to file a FOIA request, and was soon hit with an estimated fee of around $2,000.
This isn’t the first time that Horry County has charged such high fees, however. After filing requests to various agency on all records on or related to payments made by, or on behalf of, each agency to settle actual or threatened lawsuits from 2014-2019, Horry County charged The Sun News $75,000. Other agencies that received the request - such as Horry County Schools; Myrtle Beach; North Myrtle Beach; and Loris, Aynor, Conway and Surfside Beach - either fulfilled the request for free or only charged fees under $50.
Read more about Christianson’s case here.
FOIA job opportunities
The Office of Government Information Services is hiring a Management and Program Analyst. You can read more details on the public posting here.
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