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News of the Day ... in Perspective

12/24/2004

Schools, law enforcement agencies most likely to defy open-records laws

Since 1992, public schools, police departments, and sheriff’s offices have scored low in dozens of public access audits from California to New Jersey, displaying a tendency to be “inward and secretive.”

Results continue to be similar in a September project organized by The Associated Press Managing Editors of Arizona, who sent out journalists to 119 organizations to test compliance with Arizona Public Records Law. The aim was to see how ordinary citizens would be treated by the agencies.

Public officials know that ordinary citizens often do not persist when initially denied access, and exploit this inexperience, according to Charles Davis of Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri.

A Florida school superintendent cited heightened security concerns following the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, but when pressed was unable to explain how his cell phone records might enable a terrorist to launch an attack (Ariz Daily Star 12/21/04; for the complete series, see www.azstarnet.com/accessaudit .)

Additional information:

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding Polaroid photographs of Vince Foster

AAPS FOIA request of April 17, 2000, concerning safety testing of hepatitis b vaccine in newborns (still no response) .

Rotavirus vaccine information from CDC in response to AAPS FOIA request

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