The Pandemic Shift Leaves a Lasting Impact on Public Records

With no definitive end to the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic in sight, government officials revisit public record laws to better suit this ‘new norm’.

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Featured

Virginia FOIA Council supports looser rules for public officials governing remotely

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council on Wednesday [Dec. 2] declared its support for loosening state laws on electronic meetings, backing legislation to give members of local boards more leeway to call in to public meetings instead of attending in person.

Under current law, members of public bodies can only cite personal matters to participate electronically two times per calendar year. The proposed revision would allow members to participate electronically in up to a quarter of all meetings in a calendar year.

The FOIA Council voted 10-2 to recommend approval of the change, though the final decision will rest with state legislators.

Read More | Virginia Mercury

Legislation

Senator to reintroduce bill to expand and strengthen access to Police Records in California

California State Sen. Nancy Skinner, announced plans [on Nov. 30] to reintroduce her bill aimed at expanding and strengthening public access to police records.

The bill would open public access to records of officers who have engaged in biased or discriminatory behavior, conducted unlawful arrests or searches, or used force that is excessive or unreasonable. Additionally, the bill would ensure that officers with a history of misconduct can’t just quit their jobs, keep their records secret, and move on to continue bad behavior in another jurisdiction.

The legislation would also establish civil penalties for jurisdictions that fail to release records in a timely manner and mandate that agencies can only charge for the cost of duplicating records — tactics that some agencies have used to stall or circumvent the release of records.

Read More | Senator Nancy Skinner

Litigation

Mackinac Center sues University of Michigan for documents related to state’s lockdown orders

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, claiming it violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act related to documents it was seeking regarding the science and data used to support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state lockdown orders.

The lawsuit alleges University of Michigan has the burden of showing that the frank communication exemption applies, including why the public’s interest in non-disclosure clearly outweighs the public’s right to receive records in the particular instance.

Read More | Michiganlive.com

Peer Resources

Peers in Public Records Survey 2021

Have the events of 2020 impacted your priorities for the coming year? So far, most 2021 Peers in Public Records survey respondents say their request volume has increased by 25-50 percent over the past three years. Have you seen the same?

Take the 2021 Peers in Public Records Survey to find out if your priorities are aligned with your Peers.

Take the 2021 Peers in Public Records Survey >>>

Read More | GovQA

Peer Feature

Oxnard, CA debuts public records request portal

The Oxnard City Council, Dec. 1, received an informational presentation on the city’s new Public Records Request portal.

The city has experienced a dramatic rise in public records requests over the last 10 years.

“Particularly in the last four years since I have been here,” [City Clerk Michelle Ascension] said. “My first year, 2017, we barely broke 300. This year, we already received 515 requests to date. We expect to receive another 20 more this month. That averages out to about 43 requests a month. Some of the requests are easier than others, but my Assistant City Clerk Simone, who handles these, can attest to the huge task it is to manage all these requests.”

Read More | Tri County Sentry News

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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