Wednesday, February 16, 2005

~ government records are ours, aren't they? ~

The Better Government Association and Investigative Reporters and Editors have teamed up to analyze the state of the union on open government and access to public records. Each state is ranked for their responsiveness to in five areas.

The procedural criteria measure (1) the amount of time a public agency or department has to respond to a citizen's request for a public document; (2) the process a citizen must go through to appeal the decision of an agency to deny the request for the public record; and (3) whether an appeal is expedited when it reaches the court system.
The penalty criteria weigh (1) whether the complaining party, upon receiving a favorable judgment in court, is awarded attorney fees and costs; and (2) whether the agency that has wrongfully withheld a record is subject to any civil or criminal punishment.
No state received an "A"; California got a "C-".

"Our survey also found that journalists believe that the cost of litigation is a deterrent to fighting improper FOI refusals (8:1), that public officials would not be held accountable for violations (6:1), and that important information goes unpublished as a result of weak state level FOI laws (2:1). " The study, understandably, calls for strengthening of the state FOI laws.