Archive for the ‘FOIA’ Category

Podcast: Coffee Talk with Senate Co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee

March 31, 2008

In this week’s “Coffee Talk” podcast, Ok Sen. Glenn Coffee (R-OKC) discusses the state budget, and how things are not as dire as some had predicted.

He says he is pleased that the OK State Supreme Court rescinded its decision to not allow some records to be available online, and commended the Senate for its Open Records policy, the successful Open Books efforts by Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso), and the recent recognition of the Senate’s Sunshine efforts.

He says that in this age of YouTube and the internet, “people want to have ready access to information” online, and he is proud that the OK Senate is on the forefront of that, and hopes that other state agencies will follow suit.

To listen, click here.

OK Supreme Court wins "Black Hole" Award from FOI OKlahoma

March 24, 2008

Although Oklahoma as a Senate was recently honored by FOI Oklahoma with a Sunshine Award, the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to limit access to records online has earned it the dubious “Black Hole” award from the group.

The Oklahoman explains:

The justices received the award for roadblocking freedom of information by establishing new rules addressing content on the Internet. When the rules go into effect June 10, online access to court documents in the Supreme Court and district courts will be limited to court dockets only.

Besides eliminating Internet access, the order puts new restrictions on what information the public can access from legal documents filed with court clerks.

Of course making open records a matter of law, and actually opening those records are two different matters altogether, as Joey Senat recently told The Oklahoman:

Joey Senat, an OSU journalism professor and past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc., said leaving prosecution to district attorneys isn’t working.

“I think very often it’s that district attorneys don’t want to embarrass their fellow elected officials,” Senat said. “It may also have to do with the power and the money that the people on those boards might have.”

Senat said district attorneys are put in a bind when local police are accused of violating the law, because they depend on a working relationship with law enforcement.

Senate Honored by Freedom of Information Oklahoma

March 18, 2008

Freedom of Information Oklahoma, a statewide organization actively supporting organizations and individuals working to open records or provide access to government, has honored the Directors of the state Senate Communications Division and Information Systems Department with its annual Sunshine Award.

Malia Bennett has been the Senate’s Director of Communications since 2003. The Communications Division works with all 48 members of the Senate, and assists media and the public by providing information on the business of the Senate.

John Warren is the Director of the state Senate’s Department of Information Systems. The department provides technical support to all members of the Senate and staff. Warren has been Director of the department since 1998.

Given annually to a public official or governmental institution that has shown a commitment to freedom of information, the Sunshine Award was presented to Bennett and Warren by the organization for introducing a variety of innovations to give the public greater and more efficient access to the activities of the Senate.

Sen. President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan (D-Stillwater) said the award was an honor that both staff and Senators can be proud of:

We take great pride in making an emphasis on open and transparent government a priority at the state Senate. Our communications and information systems departments have been proactive and innovative in developing a variety of features to provide the public with greater access to the business of the Senate. This is a well-deserved honor for our staff.

Sen. Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee (R-OKC)said he was pleased that Bennett and Warren had been selected for the honor:

We are committed to providing the public with an accessible and open state government. Our staff has also worked hard to further that goal, and we are proud that they have been honored with this award. The Senate will continue working to find new and innovative ways to provide the public with government information.

The organization lauded Bennett and Warren for their efforts to take advantage of new technologies to further the goal of providing those who cannot be at the Capitol with as much information as possible. Since launching the Senate website in 1996, the two departments have worked together to offer digital audio to allow reporters from all media access to in-depth information and the legislative process. Additionally, the Senate unveiled streaming video from the Senate Chamber and the two largest committee rooms so the public can observe and hear Senate business each day the body meets.

In 2005, the Senate made wireless internet access available throughout all areas of the Senate. The group also praised the Senate for adding innovations such as the posting of all floor votes in real time, and access to all legislation, schedules and a number of publications.

Freedom of Information Oklahoma was founded in 1990 and continues their efforts to be an advocate for the public’s right of access to government information. The group’s 33-member board of directors includes attorneys, state and elected officials, journalists, educators and private citizens.

Learn and Share about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Okahoma

February 8, 2008

Well, it seems there’s a wiki for everything now days, and now there is one for Oklahomans who want to learn and share information about the Freedom of Information Act in Oklahoma (FOIA).

For those who may not be sure what a “wiki,” is…think of an information manual, which can be updated live, online, by multiple users. In this case, the wiki is open to anyone interested in maintaining accurate records on the FOIA in Oklahoma.

This wiki is maintained by the Sunshine Bloggers, who are from various states, and are interested in promoting open records at the state level. For more information about the wiki project, visit WikiFOIA

To learn more about the OK FOIA, visit WikiFOIA Oklahoma. As with any wiki, it’s a work in progress, but examples of information already updated on the site are links to information about state statutes, information for the press, a letter generator to write a request for open records that conformst to OK requirements, exemptions, contacts, and other resources. It is truly a growing wealth of information. If you would like to learn, or share by updating the wiki, be sure to check it out.