FOI Blog

When business and government don't mix

A lot of ink has been spilled over the years about whether government can or should be run as a business. Whole political philosophies have developed in praise of or eschewing the notion. Personally, I don't know which side has it right, at least in terms of planning, management, budgeting, etc. But I do know one area where the two don't mix, where government cannot and should not be operated like a business: access to public records and, particularly, public meetings.

Public input was CHP bill casualty

Yesterday, the governor signed a bill that will conceal all concealed handgun permit applications. Supporters rejoiced. Open government groups did not. In the process, my opposition is deemed "leftist anti-gun lunacy."

It is nothing of the sort. I just don't believe that the government -- specifically the courts -- should be able to administer a government-mandated permitting process in total secrecy.

More public discourse, not less

"The Freedom of Information Act is ridiculous."

Yes, someone actually said that. Someone who works for a publicly funded institution. Someone who had the ear of a public body that performs public functions. A public body who, by the way, has the power to remove the president of one of the nation's most prestigious universities without warning and without consensus.

Get into the FOIA spirit

Readers of this column know that I frequently encourage government officials and employees to adhere to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act as well as to the letter of it.

Shooting the Mug Shot Messenger

“Turn to the right!”

That’s what Holly Hunter’s character Ed yells out to her future husband H.I. in Raising Arizona as he poses for yet another mug shot because he can’t stop robbing convenience stores.

The private and the public relations

I got an inquiry last week from a police chief in a smallish town. He told me about a department employee who went through the grievance process after he was fired from his job. A grievance panel upheld the dismissal.

The employee got a copy of the panel's report, and the chief was saying that he knew he'd get media requests for the report. He wanted to know what his obligations were under FOIA. He was worried about violating the employee's privacy rights.

Ask your elected officials about open government

Every year, for every elected office, candidates are asked what their position would be on Policy X or Policy Y. Candidates also make promises about what they would do about Issue A or Issue B. And some try to assure voters that they would adhere to Principle M but not Principle N (or vice versa) if elected.

How often does Policy X or Y, Issue A or B, or Principle M or N refer to open government?

Not too often, right? But shouldn’t it?

Getting schooled on FOIA

Come Sept. 4, my rambunctious 5-year-old son will be joining the ranks of public school kindergartners across the state. Some school districts are already in the swing of things, but thanks to Kings Dominion, it will be Tuesday before the bell rings for all the schools.

School will be good for my little one. He needs the challenge of new material and the structure of a school day. He also needs someone other than his nagging mother to remind him that he is accountable for his behavior.

E-meetings down the primrose path

I've written before about electronic meetings, and I'll probably write about them in the future. But I'm writing about them today because I just spent three hours in a meeting to talk about e-meetings, and I've left there vexed.

First, a bit of background about how and why we have the rules that we do for electronic meetings.

Finding truffles among the acorns

Don't you just love when you're looking for one thing and you find something else really good instead? Like getting lost on the way to Aunt Kay's house and finding an out-of-this-world tacqueria? Or searching your coats for a set of lost keys and finding a crisply folded sawbuck in the pocket?

It's the same in the FOIA world.

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