Moving the Needle on Transparency

This week in the hot-seat: states look at their management of investigation and personnel files to better define what records (including video and audio files) should be available to the public under state public record laws.

Subscribe to the Peers in Public Records Newsletter

Let GovQA do the heavy lifting and receive the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives around the U.S., right to your inbox.

Share your expertise, a ‘quick tip’, or a positive story to be featured in Peers in Public Records. Send your submissions to peers@govqa.com

Featured

New bill in North Carolina legislature could allow further access to public records, more transparency

A bill making its way through the N.C. legislature would allow more access to public records related to investigations and departures of government employees.

The Government Transparency Act of 2021, or Senate Bill 355, would allow access to employee records that show why someone was promoted, demoted, dismissed, transferred, suspended or any other change to a position classification. The records would be available for any state agency, local boards of education, board of trustees, and city and county employees.

Currently, under NCGS 160A-168, city employers aren’t required to disclose investigative reports or memoranda and other information concerning the investigation of possible criminal actions of an employee until the investigation is completed and no criminal action is taken, or until the criminal action is concluded.

Read More | Watauga Democrat

More Opportunities Than Ever to Connect With GovQA & Your Peers in Public Records

From virtual and live roundtables to webinars and event sponsorships, GovQA offers a variety a ways to connect with your peers in government and learn about new trends and changes in public records.

Legislation

Bill to give Arizona troopers body cameras would also restrict video release

A proposal to buy body cameras for every Arizona state trooper would also prevent the Department of Public Safety (DPS) from releasing most of the video to the public.

If House Bill 2461 becomes law, DPS could release videos of criminal acts and use them to help convict people in court. However, critics say DPS could deny all other requests to see all non-criminal video, including routine traffic stops, car crash scenes, and even videos showing officer misconduct.

Outfitting DPS troopers with body cameras would cost $1.5 million each year for 5 years.

Read More | ABC 15 Arizona News

Virginia FOIA bill allows some access to criminal investigation records

A [Virginia] bill allowing the public access to limited criminal investigation records will go into effect in July, along with a handful of other bills related to government transparency.

Del. Chris Hurst, a former television reporter, introduced House Bill 2004. The bill requires files related to non-ongoing criminal investigations be released under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act law.

“I’d been a journalist for 10 years, and I frequently saw that access to police records was very difficult,” Hurst said. “In denying those records, accountability and transparency were lost.”

Hurst said he hopes the bill will give the public reasonable access to criminal investigation files.

Read More | WHSV News

Litigation

Missouri owes $138K in legal fees for violating Sunshine Law

Missouri is on the hook for nearly $138,000 in legal fees and expenses after an appeals court upheld a ruling that the state “knowingly and purposefully” violated the open records law.

The Missouri Court of Appeals agreed with a judge’s finding that the state ran afoul of the Sunshine Law when the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services sought to charge a genealogy research group nearly $1.5 million for state birth and death records dating to 1910, KCUR-FM reported.

Read More | 41 KSHB Kansas City News

Peer Resource

HB 3653: A breakdown of the Illinois bodycam mandate

As part of a criminal justice reform bill recently signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, every police officer in the state will be required to wear a body camera by 2025. HB 3653 is huge in size and scope. At a whopping 764 pages, the bill includes not only the body camera mandate for police, but also ends cash bail, and creates a certification program for police.

At its core, the bill aims to hold police officers and citizens accountable during their interactions. HB 3653 is the state’s response to recent civil unrest and the public’s call for more transparency when it comes to its relationship and dealings with the police. Among the many elements of the bill, the ambitious body camera mandate will undoubtedly impact the public records landscape in Illinois for years to come.

Read More | GovQA

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.

Subscribe to the Peers in Public Records Newsletter