Friday, August 29, 2008

UNC Journalism student files FOI request in EMS case

UNC Journalism student files FOI request in EMS case

On August 12, Chapel Hill High School football player Atlas Fraley called 911 from his home and said he was hurting. Orange County EMS responded to the call. A few hours later, Fraley's parents returned home and found their son dead.

What happened in the few minutes EMS was at the house? What are the other details of this tragedy?

We don't know. All the officials involved are saying little, even nearly three weeks later.

Ashley Lopez, A student in the political reporting class I teach at UNC-Chapel Hill, this week filed freedom of information requests with Orange County EMS officials and with the Board of Orange County Commissioners. She seeks emails relating to all EMS-related discussion, including the Aug. 12 incident.

My class of advanced reporting students has been working on a two-pronged assignment: 1) find out as much information as possible about the day the high school student died and 2) take a more in-depth look at Orange County EMS and see how well it is serving citizens.

The story is important. Officials had declined to discuss the case, saying only that it was "being investigated." Area news media, after initial reports, seemed to ignore the story.

Additionally, a story by the Chapel Hill Herald in July reported problems with one Orange County EMS unit.

But the journalism students ran into a stone wall of silence from officials up and down the line. EMS officials, county commissioners, UNC emergency medicine officials, all refused to discuss any aspect of the case, citing HIPAA regulations on patient privacy and "the investigation." Never mind that HIPAA has nothing to do with EMS generally or with county policy.


This entry was posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008 at 3:36 pm


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Closed session at USG meeting violates FOI laws - The Daily Campus

Closed session at USG meeting violates FOI laws

By: Kala Kachmar

Posted: 8/28/08

The Undergraduate Student Government violated Connecticut's Freedom of Information laws last night by failing to follow proper procedure for closing their public meeting and moving into executive session, which is not open to the public.


The Freedom of Information laws are designed to ensure citizen access to public records, files and meetings. Connecticut's version of the law requires that, prior to an executive session in a public meeting, the public must be given a reason as to why that part of the meeting needs to be closed. USG failed to disclose a reason prior to the session, and again refused immediately after.


The law also states that the speaker is only allowed to hold an executive session if the topic being discussed has to do with specific employees, strategy and negotiation regarding pending litigation, security matters, real estate acquisition or any matter that would not be a public record.


In addition, the law requires a two-thirds vote of the members present before executive session can be held. Speaker and 3rd-semester political science major Corey Schmitt simply stated that the members were going into executive session. While there were no objections from the USG senate, there was also no vote taken before members of the public were asked to leave the room.


Immediately following the meeting, The Daily Campus asked Schmitt to provide a reason for calling the executive session. Schmitt refused to do so, citing that the issue was "sensitive" and that he could not divulge anything discussed in executive session.


Full Article: <>

Monday, August 25, 2008

Goucher 'frustrated' by secrecy over Cornwallis documents - The Nova Scotia Business Journal|

Last updated at 2:36 PM on 16/11/07  

Goucher 'frustrated' by secrecy over Cornwallis documents



The Nova Scotia Business Journal


Immigration Minister Len Goucher wistfully compared his open and transparent days as Bedford councillor to his current, hands-tied provincial government position Thursday.

Goucher says he wants to release documents obtained by the legislature's public-accounts committee - which may clarify when the province first received advice to reduce its hefty immigration fees - but he can't. He said he wants to release three audited financial statements prepared on the nominee program's trust fund while Cornwallis Financial Corp. was managing it, but Cornwallis won't let him.

"I've always been a believer in openness and transparency - it's just part of the municipal process - and here I am in provincial government. And if you're asking me if I get frustrated because I can't release certain things, yeah absolutely."

Goucher urged reporters yesterday to file Freedom of Information requests for the documents.

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe is looking into the province's mentorship program, which the province suspended in June 2006, after a report showed Nova Scotia was charging the highest immigration fees in Canada. The government terminated its contract with Cornwallis and later offered $60 million in refunds to 600 applicants. The nominee program was created in 2002 as a way of attracting skilled immigrants to Nova Scotia.

"We have released everything that was requested, including the audited statements, to the Auditor General, he will have full co-operation from our department on that," Goucher said. "Cabinet confidentiality is still another issue."

Last Friday Goucher asked Cornwallis to give third-party consent to release the documents to the media. He got a letter from Cornwallis on Wednesday night informing him they had chosen "no position" on the documents' release. Immigration Department lawyers wouldn't release this letter from Cornwallis to Goucher Thursday.

"Without their consent, it's not possible for us to release those documents outside of the FOIPOP (freedom of information and protection of privacy) process," he said. "I would strongly suggest that you go through the FOIPOP process immediately.

"We're going to do our best to ensure that, from the standpoint of the media, and the standpoint of the public that we will endeavour to get all information out that we can, to the public in a timely manner." – The Daily News


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Freedom of Information request silly maneuver

Freedom of Information request silly maneuver


Thursday, August 21, 2008 4:07 PM EDT

The City of Baldwin has decided it needs to require its residents to file a Freedom of Information Act request if they want a copy of the city's most recent audit.


The audit was reviewed publicly Aug. 14 at a public hearing. Beth Grimes, a certified public accountant with Baldwin's auditors Bates, Carter and Co., presented the audit information and explained the company's findings.

Mayor Pro Tem Ray Holcomb announced that residents wanting a copy of the audit are being asked to file an open records request with city hall.


But Baldwin demanding a formal FOI request for a copy of its audit, paid for by city taxpayers, is out of line. The city can set a price per copy, and then dispense them as necessary.



Full Article: <>

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anna Bligh shields her cabinet in revamp of FOI laws | The Australian

Anna Bligh shields her cabinet in revamp of FOI laws



Sean Parnell, FOI editor | August 21, 2008


QUEENSLAND'S much-criticised Freedom of Information act is likely to be overhauled by the middle of next year but the state Government remains highly protective of its cabinet documents.

Formally responding to recommendations from an independent review of the FOI act, Premier Anna Bligh yesterday promised Queensland would have "the most open and accountable government in Australia".

The head of the review, former barrister and journalist David Solomon, had called on the Government to proactively release more information, moving from a "pull" to a "push" distribution model.

Such a shift would make FOI almost an avenue of last resort, but reforms to the act would give it broader reach, fewer exemptions and clearer guidelines, with personal matters handled under a separate privacy act and with a privacy commissioner.

Full article: <,25197,24215663-5006786,00.html>

Good news for diners: restaurant health inspection reports will soon be posted online - The Coast

August 07, 2008

Looking under the grill

Good news for diners: restaurant health inspection reports will soon be posted online.


by Liz Feltham


Restaurant-goers in Nova Scotia are to get another weapon in the arsenal of their decision-making toolboxes. The province will begin posting restaurant health inspections online, starting next month.


Nova Scotia agriculture minister Brooke Taylor made the announcement in May, joining a movement towards full disclosure that began in Toronto and is slowly making its way across the country (New Brunswick has such a system; Alberta, Saskatchewan and PEI have plans to do the same).


It seems like an idea whose time has come; this information has always been available---sort of. In order to view a report currently, diners must file a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a process that takes far longer than it should and quells one's appetite.


Full article: <>

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Taxpayer foots salary bill for relatives of 42 politicians (Ire) - The Independent

One in five TDs and senators employing a family member

Taxpayer foots salary bill for relatives of 42 politicians

By Michael Brennan

Tuesday August 19 2008

ONE in five TDs and senators is employing a relative at taxpayers' expense, the Irish Independent can reveal.

A total of 42 members of the Oireachtas have installed family members in secretarial and parliamentary assistant jobs, according to new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The posts are not publicly advertised and carry salaries of up to €45,000.


Full article: <>

The host server for the RTKNS website is now back up and the site is available.

The high cost of surveillance in Flintshire (UK)

The high cost of surveillance in Flintshire

Published Date: 19 August 2008
MORE than £200,000 has been spent monitoring the county's CCTV cameras in the last year.
A freedom of information (FOI) request made to Flintshire Council revealed there are 115 CCTV cameras placed across Flintshire, about one per 1,300 people in the county.

As well as these, there are further "stand alone" systems, about which the council holds no information.

A suite at County Hall in Mold is used to monitor the 115 cameras they do hold information about, excluding those on school premises.

The running costs of the suite were £205,836.93 between 2007 and 2008, which is partly-funded by town and community councils and North Wales Police.

The council was not able to measure how successful the use of CCTV cameras has been.

For example, they do not hold information on how many crimes have been solved or how many prosecutions have taken place as a result of the CCTV cameras they monitor.

The FOI request found powers were also being used to investigate anti-social behaviour, counterfeit goods, benefit fraud, illegal dumping of waste and breaches of court orders.

full article:

Access to information law in Guatemala requires urgent approval

Access to information law in Guatemala requires urgent approval

Berlin, 19 August 2008

Free access to public information is a fundamental human right, an essential element of transparency in public institutions and the main antidote to all types of corrupt practices. Currently, 72 countries -nine of them in Latin America- have passed a law guaranteeing access to information. Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption, with chapters in more than 90 countries around the world, deems essential all efforts oriented towards creating laws granting all citizens the right to access information.

In 2001 the Republic of Guatemala ratified the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and in 2006 it ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Both international legal instruments include provisions on access to public information, committing states to taking concrete steps towards legislation in favour of this human right.

However, since 2002 to the present, seven legislative initiatives regulating access to public information have been presented to the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala. None of them has been approved. The current situation, which is characterised by corruption scandals involving high-ranking public officials, has led the legislative body to know and discuss an eighth attempt to pass an access to information law. This initiative is now in the final phase of approval.

It is important to highlight that corruption scandals in any country tend to greatly affect public opinion and the credibility of governments or institutions implicated, especially when those responsible for investigating or rectify corrupt actions do not proceed in an efficient manner. In 2007, Guatemala scored 2.8 on a scale from 0 to 10 on TI's yearly Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The approval of an access to information law would contribute to increasing hope and trust in Guatemala's public institutions among citizens and investors.

Transparency International considers this access to information law a pivotal opportunity for Guatemala to reduce its lag in the fight against corruption and for the country's congressional representatives to demonstrate political will in favour of transparency and better prospects for a more just future.

Throughout history, the people of Guatemala have suffered grave injustices hidden under the cloak of impunity. A law on access to information goes beyond a fundamental right. It is the first step towards a society, in which accountability is a reality and where tackling corruption is possible. The Guatemalan people have a right to know, to inquire and to fight corruption.

The approval of the law on access to public information in Guatemala is an urgent priority. Such a law should adhere to international standards and to lessons learned from experiences around the world. Without a doubt, this is the time for the Congress of the Republic to show its commitment to the fight against corruption, it is the moment for Guatemala to act in favour of transparency and democracy.


Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

Read the Spanish version of the statement.


Central America:

Manfredo Marroquín
Regional Coordinator for Central America
Tel: +502 23317566


Gypsy Guillén Kaiser
Senior Press Officer
Tel: +49 30 343820 662

Health Department has lost a two-year battle to keep secret documents detailing the employment and sacking of a major regional hospital boss (Aus)


August 14, 2008 12:30am

THE Health Department has lost a two-year battle to keep secret documents detailing the employment and sacking of a major regional hospital boss.

The State Ombudsman, after a complex and lengthy appeal process brought by the Opposition, found the public had a right to know about the employment and termination of Ken McNeil, former chief executive of Mt Gambier Hospital.

Liberal Deputy Leader Vickie Chapman made a Freedom of Information request to the Health Department for access to documents almost two years ago.

She said her original application for Mr McNeil's contract of employment was rejected on the grounds that "the document contains information relating to personal affairs".

"The contract of a chief executive of a public hospital is a public document," Ms Chapman said yesterday. "If you're paid by the people and provide a service to the people then they should know what you're doing at work."


Ms Chapman said it was "extremely concerning" that the FoI officer who made the original determination to keep the documents secret also played a key role in Mr McNeil's appointment.


"We still need an explanation as to why the Government tried to conceal this matter and why an employee who was involved with Mr McNeil's appointment was allowed to assess the FoI application."


full article:,22606,24176578-2682,00.html

Freedom (of Information) Isn't Free - EYE WEEKLY

Freedom (of Information) Isn't Free

  • by: Jonathan Goldsbie
  • August 12, 2008  6:26 PM


    A Freedom of Information (FOI) request should be a last resort.  It is often a time-consuming and frustrating process.  In that respect, it is not too different from any other method of extracting information from the City of Toronto.  But, unlike other approaches, it also costs money — usually not too much, but it quickly adds up.  Fees associated with FOI requests are the biggest expenses of both the Toronto Public Space Committee and

    So if you want information you think the city has, first you should try the website.  Then you should phone up the relevant bureaucrats and political staff.  Then do broader web searches and, if necessary, look through the online newspaper archives to which your Toronto Public Library card gets you free access.  Try the Toronto Archives and the Urban Affairs Library and the U of T libraries.  If you still can't get the answers you're looking for, then it's time to become acquainted with the Corporate Access and Privacy (CAP) unit of the City Clerk's Office.

    An FOI request is like a deep search.  Under the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), a 1990 provincial law, municipalities and their agencies, boards, and commissions (including transit commissions, police services boards, and library boards), as well as school boards, are required to make available to the public all records in their possession, with certain limited exceptions. Upon receipt of a formal request, the institution is obligated to search its holdings until it can turn up what you're looking for. This sounds much more convenient than it actually is.

    Go to the website of the CAP office and download the PDF of the request form. Unless you're looking for information specifically about yourself (such as all mentions of your name in email correspondence between city staff), check off "Access to General Records." Next to "Identify Division" put down the name of the city department most likely to be keeping the records for which you're looking. This helps the access and privacy officer get started, but if you're not sure, just leave it blank. If you know a "Unit Name," you can put that, too, but don't worry about the "Location." Ignore "Other Institution," and check off "Receive Copy."

    In the box asking for a "Detailed description" of the records, provide exactly that. There is an art to it, though; the request shouldn't be so broad as to cost you a fortune, nor should it be so narrow that it only nets you a fraction of what you want. If the information is about a particular property, include the precise address.  (This map gives addresses for all lots in the city.) If it's records concerning a particular meeting or contract, give the year. If a document has been alluded to by a staff person or another document, use the same descriptive phrase. Ramble if you must. Try to describe just what it is that you want to get back. To learn about the legal status of the billboards down the street from me, for example, I requested "All documents pertaining to sign permits relating to 4155 Yonge Street, including the approved plans for signs; and a computer print-out listing all building permits of any sort issued to this property." From that, I got most of what I wanted (after some follow-up phone calls, I learned that Toronto Building's North York District office had lost or misplaced all of the original diagrams and plans) but enough for my purposes. There will be a good deal of trial and error involved until you figure out precisely how to phrase a request for the sorts of things you want, but if the access officer is really unclear on what you're looking for, he or she will give you a call to try to straighten it out.

    When you've filled out the form, you can mail it in with a cheque for $5, payable to the City of Toronto, but I prefer dropping it off in person — that way, you know precisely when they receive it, and you also have the option of paying with cash, debit, or credit card.  Take the form and your money to the Registry Services office at the southwest corner of the City Hall rotunda, which closes at precisely 4:15 every weekday afternoon. (You can also go to one of the civic centres.) If you're with another person, the odds are good that the staff will think you're there to get a marriage license, since issuing such things appears to be 90 per cent of what they do. Hang on to the receipt and the photocopy of the request that they'll make for you; these may become necessary later.

    The people at the CAP office, on the 13th floor of City Hall's west tower, are perhaps the most oppressively overburdened civil servants at an oppressively overburdened institution. They are legally required to respond to your request within 30 days of receiving it (even if just to say that they need more time), but that may or may not happen. The office is absurdly understaffed and as such is woefully unequipped to meet the demands of MFIPPA. Still, the staff try their hardest, but an amount of patience is required. Especially if a third party is somehow involved with the records you're requesting (say you're looking for the contract between the city and a particular corporation), prepare for a drawn-out process.

    Let's just assume, though, that things go as they should and that no third parties are involved. Within a month, you should get a decision letter from the CAP office informing you what they've found and what they're prepared to release.  They can grant full or partial access to records, or can deny you everything.  If you're getting full access, the letter will state how much you owe the city for photocopying costs, at a rate of 20¢ a page.  If you're getting partial access, there will also be a fee levied for "severance" (i.e. redaction) of stuff to which they don't believe you're entitled. That costs $30 for each hour of work, and they estimate that it takes two minutes to do a single page, so it works out to $1 for each page from which something has to be removed. (They usually don't charge for a page that has to be excised in its entirety.)

    If the total fee works out to less than $10, the charges are waived and the stuff is sent in the mail with the decision letter. If the fee is $10 or greater, then you've got to send them a cheque before they'll mail out the records. Alternatively, you can arrange to pick up the records in person at their office and pay by cash (they don't have a proper cash register up there, so try to have close to exact change). If a fee is pretty high (or even if it's not), you may want to exercise the option of viewing the records in person at City Hall before deciding what parts, if any, you think are worth obtaining copies of. You only have to pay for what you take, and you're free to bring in a camera and take photos of the documents, rather than paying to have them photocopied (though unless you really trust your camera, I don't recommend this).

    If you've gotten what you hoped for, that's it: the system worked, the government is transparent, and the Clerk's office is as efficient and responsive as they claim to be — this being the City of Toronto, you should consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, you've barely even started.

     Jonathan Goldsbie is a campaigner with the Toronto Public Space Committee. 


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The Web Host for the NS Right to Know site appears to be down. I will post again when I find it is available.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Journalist's FOI request about himself in Tribunal's hands

11 August 2008

By Martin Stabe


A journalist's Freedom of Information request about the handling of his own previous requests is to be decided by the Information Tribunal after Government ministers blocked it.


Matt Davis of Brighton-based John Connor Press Associates filed the request with the Home Office, seeking any internal correspondence about his previous requests.


"I have long suspected that the Home Office have been dealing with me – because I use the Act on a large scale – differently than general members of the public," said Davis.


Davis said his concerns were raised in 2006 when he and a colleague based in Australia submitted identical requests to the Home Office about compensation payments made to prisoners – and received different responses.


"I suspect that somewhere, someone has said 'if you get a request from John Connor Press Associates, put it in the slow tray', or something like that," said Davis.


"I believe that my requests are being red-flagged, and they shouldn't be because requests under FoI are applicant blind, so it shouldn't matter if it's me, David Cameron, Tony Blair or whoever that's asking the question – they should be treated exactly the same."


Full Article:


FOI uncovers safety concerns at Jandakot :

Monday, August 18, 2008

10:32 AM

FOI uncovers safety concerns at Jandakot

16th August 2008, 9:30 WST

There are serious concerns about safety at Jandakot Airport, where an average of more than six safety incidents a month are recorded.

The figures were unearthed in a Freedom of Information request to Federal airport controller Airservices Australia by Today Tonight and The West Australian.

It revealed that 275 incidents were reported in the three years to January, including at least 12 near-misses and 12 instances when pilots could not get vital instructions from air traffic control because too many people were using the same frequency.

At least eight pilots had emergency landings and two planes crashed — one a light training plane which hit 100m from houses after its engine failed.

The report revealed 120 times when pilots, many believed to be trainees, approached or entered a runway without control tower clearance or illegally entered Jandakot’s restricted airspace.

Full Article: <>

Sunday, August 17, 2008

RCMP scrambled after taser airport death as revealed in e-mails released to the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act

RCMP scrambled after taser airport death, e-mails reveal

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — While RCMP brass and its media relations division scrambled to keep from being "crucified" over taser use and the death of a man at Vancouver's airport, they also had to deal with an increasing barrage of complaints accusing officers of being everything from clowns to killers.

E-mail documents, released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, showed great concern from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's office down to the RCMP's British Columbia media relations office over the public's perception about the death of Robert Dziekanski.


Full Article:

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"There’s no doubt about the importance of having good access to information law that we can rely on." - John Williamson fed. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Extravagant expenses curtailed at ferry agency
Chronicle Herald story prompts new rules for Marine Atlantic execs
By STEPHEN MAHER Ottawa Bureau
Sat. Aug 2 - 5:52 AM

OTTAWA — Marine Atlantic has tightened its spending rules for executives and board members after an investigation by The Chronicle Herald drew attention to the corporation's free-spending ways.

Federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon ordered an audit of executive expense and hospitality spending after a 2006 story in The Chronicle Herald revealed that then-chairman Vince MacLean and three executives travelled to Greece and stayed at the luxurious Astir Palace Resort in Athens in October 2006 at the cost of $18,857.81.

The Chronicle Herald recently obtained a copy of the audit, which found that Marine Atlantic didn't always follow its own rules and recommended that it tighten its expense system.

The 2006 story — based on documents unearthed through access-to-information legislation — also revealed tens of thousands of dollars in spending on golf, fine dining, travel and alcohol, including travel expenses for the spouses of board members and executives.


The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Mr. Cannon does deserve credit for making changes at Marine Atlantic.

"It sounds encouraging when stories like this are reported," said John Williamson, the group's federal director. "The minister takes action and at the end of the day, there's a replacement at the helm of this Crown (corporation)."

Mr. Williamson, whose organization objected strongly to the spending revealed by The Chronicle Herald, said the story shows why it is important to have public access to government documents.

"There's no doubt about the importance of having good access to information law that we can rely on," he said.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Gone Fishing! (figuratively that is) Back in Mid-August.

RIGHT TO KNOW: Teacher, superintendent contracts, state payroll now all online ::

Friday, August 01, 2008

8:34 AM

Wow!That’s the only way to describe the work the Empire Center has done on behalf of your right to know.During a press conference I attended earlier today in Albany, the non-partisan government think tank unveiled a new Web site that shines the light on New York government and schools in a way that hasn’t been done before.The site,, offers databases of the entire state payroll of 263,000 government employees in a way that can easily be cross-referenced by state department, agency and the individual’s name. The site also lists 10,000 legislative member items. More interesting to local residents, perhaps, is that the site also contains the electronic versions of union contracts and superintendent of schools’ contracts for virtually all 733 school and BOCES districts in the state — including all of those districts in our area. Anyone who’s ever tried to pry this information from a local school district through Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests knows what a chore it can usually be, both in terms of time and in terms of frustration and aggravation dealing with school officials who don’t want to release the information. Now, that information is available for any resident of the state to peruse, simply by clicking on this site. So if you want to look up what your school district is paying its teachers or superintendents, and what benefits they might be getting, you don’t have to FOIL the information yourself any longer. The exhaustive work has been done for you.“Government is not transparent,” Empire Center Director E.J. McMahon said during the press conference. “It’s opaque. It’s dark and dim. … Knowledge is power, and this empowers average New Yorkers.”

Full article <>