This week's FOIA roundup: Record wins, Detroit's big, bad neighbor, and taxpayer dollars to Trump

This week’s FOIA roundup: Record wins, Detroit’s big, bad neighbor, and taxpayer dollars to Trump

The week in transparency and accountability battles, threats, and wins

Written by
Edited by Sarah Alvarez

Every week, MuckRock brings to you this roundup of transparency and accountability battles, threats and wins. Have you recently read a news story about why government transparency — or a lack of it — matters? Let us know, and we could include it in our next roundup!

Get Active

Where have they seen your face before?

Do you know if your local government is buying or using facial recognition software? Not sure? Let us know what town we should ask, and we’ll submit a request for the records.

A world without FOIA

The Center for Public Integrity is organizing around #WithoutFOIA to highlight the information we would go without if not for our favorite legal right to government records. Join them by sharing your faves, and why don’t you also submit them to our contest for sunshine’s sake!

Threats against our right to access

The Project on Government Oversight published a reminder this week that federal FOIA exemption b(5) is still being over-applied, threatening the right of American people to know what their government is doing.

Before his August 2019 resignation Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló limited the ways journalists can submit public records requests and extended the number of days they have to wait. Earlier this week, Committee to Protect Journalists highlighted the negative effects it has had on reporters, who have been hindered in covering major events like last month’s 6.4 magnitude earthquake.

A corrections officer in upstate New York resigned this week after pleading guilty to tampering with public records. She claimed to have made required rounds in the prison that never happened.

Legislators in Idaho are attempting to exempt personal details from disclosure under the state records law, including names, birthdates, and email addresses. The blanket exemption could seriously undermine accountability throughout government, providing agencies an opportunity to obscure names and relevant information in a spectrum of situations, including when dealing with private actors and corporate entities.

New FOInsights

What if the bad neighbor next door is the city itself? Katlyn Alo, Data Reporting Director for MuckRock and Outlier Media, brings us the story from Detroit. The city itself is the city’s largest property owner and landlord for more than 50,000 vacant lots.

The tally of federal taxpayer money spent at Trump properties is well into the seven-digits, as illuminated by new materials recently reported in The Washington Post.

Administrators in Snohomish County, Washington will soon be out more than $100,000 after a judge found the county guilty of citing a-completely fictional-Jail Records Act when denying requests.

The City of Rockford, Illinois is owed more than $700,000 in parking ticket fees from just one year of violations, as revealed by parking ticket data released to 13 WREX through a Freedom of Information Act Request with the city.

Ongoing Battles

The ACLU of Montana is suing for records related to how law enforcement is preparing for protestors ahead of more Keystone XL pipeline construction.

The Alexandria Times has started a FOIA fund to help support its ability to pay records request fees.

Just FOIA Fun

Looking to learn Python? A new FOIA release gives you access to materials from a National Security Agency course on coding.