Few parts of the FOIA process are more frustrating than finally hearing back from an agency after months of anticipation, only to be handed an invoice for a few hundred dollars in duplication fees. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 was meant to specifically address those frustrations, prohibiting agencies from charging fees if certain conditions are met. However, as is so often the case, sometimes agencies need a gentle reminder of legal requirements.
Back in 2016, Emma Best filed a FOIA request for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s files on the infamous white supremacist website Stormfront. After two and half years of processing, the FBI finally responded, releasing just 104 pre-processed pages. What’s more, according to the cover letter accompanying the release, there were additional records, but the Bureau simply couldn’t find them.
The Massachusetts Governor’s Office is exempt from state records law, but still accepts requests on a case-by-case basis
Three years ago, Massachusetts legislators revised the state’s public records law with the ostensible goal of increasing access. And yet, the law is still considered one of the most restrictive in the country - in no small part owing to the fact that the Bay State remains the only state in which all three branches of its state government are exempt from disclosure.
Last weekend, an anonymously-attributed presentation entitled “FOIA Strategies and Tactics” started making the rounds in the #OpenGov community, offering something for beginners, veterans, and fans of vintage Tex Avery alike. While the whole thing’s worth a read, today we wanted to focus on the five points brought up in the presentation’s conclusion, as they address some often-overlooked elements of the whole FOIA process.
A new two-fold bill in Massachusetts hopes to set a new standard for frivolous complaints in the state as well as address records requests intended to harass agencies. However, transparency advocates say the bill raises concerns and they hope to work with sponsors and the committee to “get it right.”