Two Tools Track Arizona Governments, Reveal Missteps and Waste

Arizona Capitol

It is National Sunshine Week, which celebrates transparency in government, including creating awareness about requesting information from governments through FOIA public record requests. In Arizona, there are two tools provided by state agencies which allow anyone to look online at some of the government spending by state and local governments. Although it is a minimal amount of data, it reveals some missteps and waste. 

The Arizona State Treasurer manages AZCheckbook.com, which provides information about funding the state gets from all sources, including the federal government, and how much it is distributing to schools, cities, and towns. The Arizona Department of Administration operates OpenBooks.AZ.gov, which provides checkbook-level information about individual state expenditures, including on the city and county level.

Read More

University Accused of Weaponizing Public Records Law to Harass, Intimidate Faculty

Indiana University campus

Indiana University paid a law firm to file a public records request against itself to search the emails of a law professor who was investigating its presidential search process, the professor claims, citing an invoice for the firm’s services.

Steve Sanders said he learned about the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request made by Hoover Hull Turner, “presumably to attempt to find out how I’ve learned what I know,” on the eve of publishing his investigation on Medium in October.

The request covered any presidential search-related emails he may have sent or received with trustees, search committee members, former officials and recently departed President Michael McRobbie.

Read More

Outrageous Tab: Minnesota School Charges $901,000 for Critical Race Theory Records

AMinnesota school district billed a group $900,000 to fulfill a public records request about Critical Race Theory (CRT) in its curriculum.

A law firm representing parent group Equality in Education filed a records request with Rochester Public Schools in southern Minnesota to disclose materials mentioning CRT, the Daily Caller reported.

Wenyuan Wu tweeted: “Serious ask: is it normal for a Minnesota school district to ask $901k for a public records request on its CRT, DEI, SEL … practices?”

Read More

Judge Rules Arizona Legislature Must Disclose Ballot Audit Records to Newspaper

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah, who was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Janet Napolitano, ruled that the Arizona Senate must turn over records from the Maricopa County ballot audit to satisfy a public records request from The Arizona Republic. The newspaper and left-wing watchdog American Oversight have been engaged in litigation attempting to get records from the legislature and the contractor that conducted the audit, Cyber Ninjas. 

Hannah said that while the legislature may keep conversations about legislation private, under “legislative privilege,” conversations about the audit are excluded. “This is not a confidential process,” Hannah said. “This is a highly, highly public process.” He said there is a legal presumption favoring disclosure which the Senate did not overcome. 

Read More

Cyber Ninjas Must Turn over Records from the Maricopa County Ballot Audit, State Appeals Court Says

The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a request from Cyber Ninjas, the company that audited Maricopa County’s ballots, to block a public records request by the media for records from the audit. Phoenix Newspapers Inc., which owns The Arizona Republic, asked for emails and other documents in its April request, which the lower trial court granted. Cyber Ninjas appealed the decision. The appellate court rejected the cyberfirm’s argument that opening its records up for public inspection would allow opening the records of any contractor that does business with the state. 

Jack Wilenchik, Cyber Ninja’s attorney, expressed his disappointment to Capitol Media Services, “The government cannot force private contractors to produce things the government does not own. He said it’s similar to a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure.

Read More

Loudoun County Sheriff Rejected School Superintendent’s ‘Extraordinary’ Security Requests for School Board Meetings

Scott A. Ziegler and

Recently-unearthed documents revealed a disagreement between the superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), after the former requested increased security measures from the latter in order to combat protesting parents at school board meetings, the Daily Caller reports.

The correspondence was revealed by a public records request from the Fight for School PAC. Documents show that superintendent Scott Ziegler’s requests included an increased presence of officers, a K-9 sweep of the meeting venue, and undercover officers in the crowd, among other measures, all of which were rejected by LCSO as excessive.

The LCSO even went so far as to disagree with Ziegler changing the rules for the school board meeting, including the decision to shut down the public comment section of a meeting that took place on June 22nd; LCSO told Ziegler that measures such as this amounted to silencing political opposition.

Read More

McAuliffe-Tied Law Firm Sues Special Ed Parents for Posting Embarrassing Public Records

“Idon’t think parents should be telling schools what they teach,” Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe said in a recent debate.

A wealthy Virginia school district outside Washington, D.C. went even further this week, with the help of a law firm tied to the former governor.

Represented by Hunton Andrews Kurth, Fairfax County Public Schools is suing two parents for learning about its dirty laundry from a state Freedom of Information Act request. It filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction Tuesday.

Read More

American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Sues the State House of Representatives Over for Redistricting

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio wants a court to force Republican lawmakers to turn over records related to redistricting it says it asked for five months ago and never received.

The group has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Ohio, seeking the records as the state closes in on the release of U.S. Census Bureau data and a constitutional mandate to redraw congressional and state representative district boundaries.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, have not responded to open records request made in February, the lawsuit said. The ACLU said the records will help it monitor the redistricting process.

Read More

Business Insider Compiles Database to Track Former Trump Officials

President Donald Trump meets with (from left) U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price; Vice President Mike Pence; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan; Dr. Zeke Emanuel; and Andrew Bremberg, Dir. Domestic Policy Council, Monday, March 20, 2017, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Benjamin Applebaum)

A Business Insider list of former President Donald Trump’s officials tracks where these figures are working since departing the administration, warning that like Trump, these former staffers are “nowhere close to being gone.”

Insider said it combed through the interviews, LinkedIn profiles, and public records of over 327 former Trump staffers and compiled a searchable database “to show where they all landed.”

The publication noted that almost 100 former staffers have obtained “establishment” jobs, that over 40 of these former Trump officials still work in the government or in politics, and that at least 85 have gone “off the grid with no information available about their next move.”

Read More

The Arizona Republic Sues State Senate, Cyber Ninjas for Election Audit Records

One of Arizona’s largest newspapers is suing the state Senate and the contracted company running the audit, Cyber Ninjas, for access to their election audit records and financial records. The Arizona Republic, part of the Gannett mass media company, filed a special action on Wednesday in the Maricopa County Superior Court – case number LC2021-000180. Reportedly, the Senate denied the paper’s request for access to the audit and financial records, saying they weren’t public record. The specific information they hope to obtain includes the process for the audit, businesses involved, funding sources, and all communications of those involved.

The plaintiffs in the case are Phoenix Newspapers and Kathy Tulumello, news director for The Arizona Republic. Including the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the other defendants named are Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott), Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), and the secretary for the Senate, Susan Aceves. 

Read More

State Rep. William Lamberth Completely Overhauls Public Records Bill, Creating Increased Government Transparency

State Rep. William Lamberth has completely overhauled a public records bill that received significant public outcry to a version that creates increased government transparency. Rep. Lamberth (R-Portland), who is also the House Republican Majority Leader, initially drafted HB 0626 to protect government employees from abusive requesters. As The Tennessee Star…

Read More