A star quarterback’s career almost cut short over a case of fecal misidentification, a questionable profit center for departments of motor vehicles, and the citizen gripes behind a brewing Rhode Island bike war. All in a week’s work for public records.
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When an officer flashed his lights to tell Shai Werts, Georgia Southern’s quarterback, to pull over, the student athlete proceeded cautiously. Following advice from his mother and local law enforcement PSAs, he called dispatch, let them know he was slowing down, putting on emergency lights, and driving to a well lit place. He then did just that.
The cops convinced themselves Werts was hiding drugs, and ultimately found the evidence they were looking for after scraping bird poop from the hood of his car which tested positive as cocaine.
Nathaniel Cary and Carol Motsinger of the Greenville News followed up the incident by checking around to see which other nearby towns also used the questionable tests and provided more context about the tests reliability and potential fallout, particularly for those arrested without the legal and public pressure resources Werts had.
Writing for Motherboard, Joseph Cox has an investigation into how widespread the sale of DMV data is to private investigators. In some states, records are available for just a penny each.
The investigation found that in some states, standards for accessing the data were incredibly lax, including allowing unlicensed investigators or convicted felons to gain access to the database.
One of the first things I learned in the world of public records is that people really care about transit issues. Bike rental services are no exceptions, as data released to Providence Journal’s Brian Amaral shows.
Amarel requested and analyzed citizen complaint data Providence provided to Uber-owned JUMP bikes. The program was suspended (perhaps temporarily) as JUMP and the city work out some of the challenges.
In June, the University of Georgia’s director of Greek life was informed funds earmarked for charity were coming up short. Over the next few days, it became clear why: A long-time employee had been defrauding a number of student and charitable organizations, redirecting $1.3 million and fueling a lavish lifestyle.
- Reporting for The Red & Black, Hunter Riggall, Savannah Sicurella, and Spencer Donovan dug behind the headlines to get the documents that showed the full extent of the fraud, using open records requests to trace back mistakes going back over a decade.
Jobs from the FOIA world.
- Marshall Project: A student who plans ahead? Marshall Project is recruiting its 2020 summer interns now.
- MuckRock: We’re hiring! Come use transparency, journalism and technology to strengthen our democracy. Central Research, Inc.: The FOIA outsourcing firm is hiring a FOIA analyst able to review 400 pages per day.