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!
THIS JUST IN
This week, we reached 75,000 requests filed on Muckrock! That’s over 75,000 times y’all have asked for transparency, open government and accountability — and over 75,000 times we’ve been grateful to be a part of it. Keep filin’, FOIA fam.
Brought to you by MuckRock
Need some inspiration? Here are our two interim winners:
Neal Delfeld for K9 School Search Activity
“What are the results of any K9 searches in this school during the last calendar year? K9 searches in schools are a crucial part of a school-to-prison pipeline, yet the vast majority of searches produce no contraband or arrests. Further, K9 searches are frequent in poor, rural, and minority communities, and are mostly unreported, even to the families of the students searched.”
Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones for Records on Municipal Speed Cameras Payments
“A story in a local ABC news outlet for Washington, D.C. recently showed the city was bringing in over $34 million a year from tickets issued by speed cameras. While speed cameras have a good purpose, such an egregious amount combined with numerous complaints may indicate that the system is being abused. A FOIA requester could ask for records on city income from speed cameras, invoices, or contractual agreements with private entities maintaining the speed cameras. If the company is getting a percentage benefit from the tickets, that might indicate a perverse benefit to ensure more tickets are given out for unreasonable circumstances.”
The San Francisco Chronicle has upped their security after a county sheriff notified concealed carry weapon permit holders that the paper had requested public permit records.
The paper and the reporter have received threats of doxxing and violence. Even so, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea says he stands by his decision to notify permit holders that the paper had requested — and received — their information.
The story underscores tension between privacy and public record, but Action News Now reports the application for concealed carry permits clearly states the information is public record.
In FOIA’s defense
Tomorrow, Frontenac, Kansas has a forecast of a high of 53 and a little extra sunshine after the state attorney general issued city officials notice that they violated state open records law by charging reporters $3,500 for their request, which was related to recent personnel firings.
The Kansas City Star reports that the AG is requiring Frontenac officials to do a whole lot of training and policy updates to prove they will be compliant with the Kansas Open Records Act.
In Tacoma, WA, a judge ruled that city department heads would have court-ordered public records training and the city would have to pay over $35,000 in penalties for failing to provide a complete responsive record.
The News Tribune reports that the lawsuit resulted from a 2016 request for records related to a “planned liquefied natural gas plant.”
All this hoopla and we don’t even know what goods are in the records. So we’ll be staying tuned.
Just FOIA fun
Ever think being an adult is just less fun than it should be? Miss the days when your biggest task was figuring out how to sauce up that paper mache volcano so it’d have a bigger explosion than Lizzie’s?
We can’t really help with either of those things, but if you’re reading this, then you’re a FOIA nerd. So come get nerdy with us at our second Boston Transparency Science Fair, March 15!
And stay tuned for info on other Sunshine Week events hosted by yours truly here at Muckrock.