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Thread: FOIA violations starting to get some attention

  1. #1
    Regular Member TFred's Avatar
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    FOIA violations starting to get some attention

    Civil Penalties Are There for a Reason

    by Megan Rhyne, Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government

    Did you know that in Florida, a government employee’s failure to comply with the state’s public records act can result in not only a $1,000 fine, but also one year in jail? Or both! It’s no mere theoretical penalty, it’s been imposed.

    Fines imposed on Washington state and local officials have ballooned from $108,000 in 2006 to nearly $1.7 million in 2011, according to an examination of Public Records Act cases by a Seattle television station.

    A judge in Washington last month imposed a record $649,896 fine against the Department of Social and Health Services for withholding records from an 18-year-old woman who sought information to the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her father.

    Officials obviously keep violating the law, but I’m willing to bet that nearly $650,000 in fines will get an agency’s attention that they better toe the line. I’m also willing to bet that there are some taxpayers out there who are pretty angry that their tax dollars are being spent to litigate cases and then paying fines when records should have been disclosed in the first place.

    Virginia law allows a judge to impose a civil penalty of between $500 and $2,000 for a first violation and between $2,000 and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. That’s a far cry from possible prison sentences and six-figure fines.

    ... See link above for rest of article...


    TFred

  2. #2
    Regular Member sawah's Avatar
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    I'd be interested in knowing why this official did this. Could it just be laziness?
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    FOIA violations are 1st amendment violations.

    Most states allow sanctions. My state, CT, has this option but NO sanctions were issued from Jan 1 - 1 MAY of this year.

    Sanctions are meant to "get attention" but they don't because they are so rarely given out. Its a gov't agency fining a gov't agency ... they don't like to do that.

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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidmcbeth View Post
    FOIA violations are 1st amendment violations.

    Most states allow sanctions. My state, CT, has this option but NO sanctions were issued from Jan 1 - 1 MAY of this year.

    Sanctions are meant to "get attention" but they don't because they are so rarely given out. Its a gov't agency fining a gov't agency ... they don't like to do that.
    Same here. Judges are allowed to impose the fine but not required to....and usually don't!

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    Regular Member paramedic70002's Avatar
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    Hmmm. The state pays the fine, but the employee does the time. I like it. On another note, after the case is concluded, do the FOIAed files get released? Or it a fine with no happy ending?
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    Accomplished Advocate peter nap's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paramedic70002 View Post
    Hmmm. The state pays the fine, but the employee does the time. I like it. On another note, after the case is concluded, do the FOIAed files get released? Or it a fine with no happy ending?
    Virginia added employee punishment a few years ago. I'll have to go back and look at the text but I think it only allowed disciplinary measures.
    Va passes these bills so they can brag, but they rarely have any teeth.
    You should go to one of the FOIA Council's planning meetings sometime. They have a lot of ideas for reform that the GA refuses to implement.

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    Regular Member Repeater's Avatar
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    Bob Marshall helped

    Quote Originally Posted by peter nap View Post
    Virginia added employee punishment a few years ago. I'll have to go back and look at the text but I think it only allowed disciplinary measures.
    Va passes these bills so they can brag, but they rarely have any teeth.
    You should go to one of the FOIA Council's planning meetings sometime. They have a lot of ideas for reform that the GA refuses to implement.
    It was Bob Marshall who helped regarding this:

    HB1457 - 2011

    Watkins Abbitt helped with this:

    HB2086 - 2003

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