Timeframes, Transparency and Trust

New legislation, the promise for transparency, and tight timeframes can make adhering to public record laws tough on record managers leaving some to question if their current way of processing public record requests is as secure and efficient as it should to be.

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Pennsylvania bill would give Legislature faster access to public records

Already exempt from most of the state’s open-records law, Pennsylvania state legislators would get what critics call an “E‑ZPass” to obtain records and shorten appeals.

Lawmakers and top statewide elected officials could get records in five days instead of the 35 days citizens typically face in a proposed change to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law.

The current law, passed in 2008, requires government agencies to respond to records requests in five days. But it also allows them to take another 30 days for a host of reasons, including conducting a legal review. Experts say the 30-day extension has become a routine, automatic response from state and local agencies.

Read More | Lancaster Online News

Survey: Public Trust Police Use of New Tech for Transparency

Technology is playing an increasingly significant role in the evolution of policing in the U.S. A new national survey from Veritone shows the public is looking for increased transparency from law enforcement agencies and suggests that technology can play a role in building trust between police and communities.

Body-worn cameras and automatic facial recognition systems earned high levels of trust from the public, with 61 percent in favor of more funding for technologies like these that help police be more transparent. Nearly half (48 percent) said body-worn cameras were the technology with the most potential to make communities safer.

Learn More >>>


Oklahoma House sends governor bill seeking to limit public access to images of dead law officers

[Oklahoma] Legislation its authors say would make more difficult the release of some law enforcement crime-scene images passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives and was sent to the Governor’s Office on Monday.

Carried over from last session, when it cleared every hurdle except final passage in the House, Senate Bill 968, by Sen. John Haste, is an effort to block public access to videos such as the one showing the fatal shooting of Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson and wounding of Officer Aurash Zarkeshan in June 2020.

But whether SB 968 will have much practical effect is unclear. Current law already allows law enforcement agencies to withhold dashcam and bodycam video depicting deaths or dead bodies, and the Johnson video was ordered released by a Tulsa County judge because the Tulsa Police Department’s version of events did not match the department’s video.

SB 968 also would leave the final decision to a judge.

Read More | Tulsa World News


Virginia's Governor sued over refusal to make parents’ ‘tip line’ emails public

[Virginia] Gov. Glenn Youngkin is being sued by a group of media organizations over his office’s refusal to share emails sent to a “tip line” that he asked parents to report any “inherently divisive practices” taught in schools.

Youngkin’s office cited an exemption from the state’s public-records law in response to 8News’ Freedom of Information Act request seeking the messages sent to the email address.

The records were withheld because they are considered “working papers and correspondence of the Office of the Governor,” Youngkin’s office wrote in an email.

Other news outlets that filed similar FOIA requests reported getting the same response, leading 13 media organizations to file a lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court on Wednesday [April 13] claiming that Youngkin’s office has violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit argues the working papers exemption does not apply to the emails being requested.

Read More | ABC 8 News

Columbus Zoo sued in Ohio Supreme Court for violating public records request

A lawsuit has been filed by Meade Construction against the Columbus Zoo after the Zoo’s refusal to follow a public records request, according to Ohio Supreme Court documents.

Andrew Meade, of Meade Construction, made an written public records request using an anonymous email account on March 15 to ask for a copy of the new CEO’s contract, court documents said, and the Zoo denied the request.

The Ohio Supreme Court has previously ruled that nonprofit entities receiving taxpayer funds and performing a government function are required to follow public records law.

Meade Construction worked with the Columbus Zoo on several projects in recent years.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s appeal to have its accreditation reinstated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) was denied last December.

Read More | NBC 4 News


3 Tips in 15 Minutes: Move your records storage and tracking out of spreadsheets and email

On Monday, April 25 Cindi Mansell, veteran records manager, brings to light the critical flaws in using spreadsheets and email to manage records requests. If you struggle to get support to purchase appropriate tools to do your job as records manager, this overview and the accompanying materials can help! Get the clarity you need to help communicate the challenges and risks of relying on spreadsheets and email.

Learn more and Register >>>

Read More | GovQA – Now Part of Granicus 

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The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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