Effective FOIA by KansasWatchdog

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									          FOIA:
Freedom of Information and
 How to Use it Effectively




        Earl F. Glynn
        Overland Park, KS


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http://www.FranklinCenterHQ.org/
resources/federal-resources/



                              2
               Web Sites
KansasWatchdog.org KansasMeadowlark.com
 @KansasWatchdog         @EarlGlynn




     Computer Assisted Reporting Blog
      http://car.FranklinCenterHq.org   3
Effective FOIA

• What is “FOIA”?
• State Sunshine Laws
• Getting Help
• Sunshine Resources
• Tips
• Success and Failures

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                   What is FOIA?




   Under the FOIA, agencies must disclose any information that is
requested – unless that information is protected from public disclosure
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          What is FOIA?
Noun
FOIA is a federal law that allows for
disclosure of previously unreleased
information and documents controlled by
the U.S. Government.

Adjective
… a FOIA request …

Verb
I FOIAed those documents.
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          What is FOIA?
Technically “FOIA” only applies to open
record requests from the U.S. Government.

However, the term “FOIA” often is used to
mean “open records” at any level of
government, federal, state or local.




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Where to Make a FOIA Request?



                   Before sending a
                   request to a federal
                   agency, you should
                   determine which
                   agency is likely to have
                   the records you are
                   seeking.

                   FOIA.gov lists over
                   90 agencies!
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FOIA does not apply to …




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  How to Make a FOIA Request?
• Be as specific as possible in writing.
• Many agencies have online request procedure.
• Send request to document custodian (or send
to head of department or agency).
• Sometimes a specific form is required.
• Give limit that you’re willing to pay for copies.
• No reason need be given for any request.

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FOIA Letter Generator




http://www.rcfp.org/foialetter/index.php   11
        State Sunshine Laws




http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Portal:WikiFOIA
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          State Sunshine Laws




http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Minnesota_on_WikiFOIA13
          State Sunshine Laws




http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Minnesota_on_WikiFOIA14
                  Getting Help




FOIAchat is a weekly conference on Twitter from
2 PM to 3 PM Eastern Time using the hash tag
#foiachat.

FOIAchat is meant to generate collaboration between
activists, citizens, bloggers and journalists in regards
to filing for Freedom of Information requests.
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#FOIAchat on Twitter




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 Sunshine Resources




http://sunshinereview.org/   17
Sunshine Resources




http://www.nfoic.org/   18
  Sunshine Resources




http://www.nfoic.org/states   19
   Sunshine Resources




http://sunlightfoundation.com/   20
   Sunshine Resources




http://www.followthemoney.org/   21
   Sunshine Resources




http://www.followthemoney.org/   22
                        Tips
• Be polite and respectful.
• Try informal request, but play hardball when
necessary.
• Ask for fee waiver.
• Ask to inspect records instead of buying copies.
• Generally cannot request records that do not
exist but will exist in the future.
• Easiest to get computer files in “native”
format.
• Can be limitations on how information is used.23
Tip: Use camera to avoid copying costs

                   County ponders how to
                   deal with photographing
                   of public records

                   Dodge City (KS) Globe
                   May 23, 2008

                   Seward County: $25/day per camera


        http://www.dodgeglobe.com/news/x1191427526/
County-ponders-how-to-deal-with-photographing-of-public-records24
        Tips: Problem Requests
• Knock on door. Show up in person.
• Ask for help from “friendly” elected official.
• Many types of records may be closed. Ask for
specific statutory authority for denial. Read the
statute, challenge denial.
• Drafts and “work products” can be closed, but
are open if identified or cited in public meeting.
• Be persistent! Don’t give up till you get the
information. Send follow-up E-mails.
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                 Success: FOIA
       FEMA Money in Dickinson County/Chapman

                                        National median
                                        < $30,000

                                        March 25, 2009
Kansas
Meadowlark.com
                                        March 31, 2009




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 Success: Kansas Open Records Act
            Friend of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius? Did you get to fly
            the State of Kansas Executive Aircraft to the NCAA
            basketball tournament in San Antonio?,
            Kansas Meadowlark, May 11, 2008.




http://kansasmeadowlark.com/blog/2008/05/11/friend-of-gov-sebelius-executive-aircraft/
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     Success: Missouri Sunshine Law




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http://openrecords.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/sammie-foia-award-for-william-carlin-walker/
Success: Salaries of Overland Park workers




                      http://kansas.watchdog.org/3099/
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    2010-03-19-472000-in-bonuses-in-2009-for-city-workers-in-overland-park/
                Records too “open”?




http://kansasmeadowlark.com/blog/2008/07/15/some-kansas-open-records-too-open/
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                   Failures
• Clerk of U.S. House/Secretary of U.S. Senate
will not allow pictures/video story of how to find
records in their offices. (Congress exempt)
• Count of Pro/Con phone calls to congressional
office. (Congress exempt)
• Exact computation of Congressional Members’
Representational Allowance. (Congress exempt)
• Any info form Kansas Board for Discipline of
Attorneys (State Judiciary exempt from state
open records)
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                          Failure


                               Normally Kansas Open Record Act requests
                               for non-existent documents will be denied.
                               SRS sent letter to 959 Home and
                               Community Based Service Providers.
                               Dept. of Aging sent to about 75.
                               SEIU agreed to pay $4500 for its KORA
                               request prior to the receipt of the requested
                               information.




http://kansas.watchdog.org/792/controversy-grows-over-seiu-request/
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             Questions?
        Earl F. Glynn
  earl@KansasWatchdog.org
  Twitter: @KansasWatchdog or @EarlGlynn




earl.glynn@FranklinCenterHq.org

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