Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “Access is vital to the healthy functioning of a democracy.”

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  • Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed an executive order today intended to simplify the process for citizens looking to access government documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The state has been criticized in the past for “complex” and “inconsistent” policies related to requesting government documents in FOIA requests. According to blogger Jennifer Hayes, “The executive order will require all executive branch agencies to adopt a standard policy  for requests in order to streamline the process and make it less costly to the requester.” Markell hopes this will increase the government’s transparency and openness. He maintains, “We knew we had to do better,” Markell said. “Access is vital to the healthy functioning of a democracy.” For Hayes’ take, read her post on SussexCountian. 
  • Minnesota’s Farmington School Board members are changing the way they respond electronically to constituents to avoid potentially violating open meeting laws. Transparency concerns occurred after email conversations with constituents were sent by “reply all” to other board members. This could put board members in violation of open meeting laws. Although email isn’t specifically addressed in the law, issues occur regarding proper responses. School Board Chair Tera Lee said emails could be misinterpreted by other board members as an attempt to sway a vote even if that’s not the way it was intended by the writer.”That’s the problem with email too, is that it’s such a grey area,” she said. For the entire story, read Laura Adelmann’s post on This Week Live. 
  • New Jersey citizens raised transparency concerns at a Common Council meeting held this Tuesday. Guy Haselmann, who presides over the Summit Department of Community Programs, used the public comment portion of the meeting to call into question the council’s adherence to open meetings laws. Haselmann, who has been critical of the Council at meetings in the past, presented statements made in emails he said involved Councilwoman Ellen Dickson, Councilwoman Nuris Portuondo, Councilman Thomas Getzendanner, Councilman Rich Madden and Council President Dave Bomgaars cutting a deal. Haslemann maintains the evidence he obtained through his records request show alleged violation of openness laws. For more information, read Camillio H. Smith’s post on Summit Patch. 
  • According to Curt Olsen, transparency is lacking at The North Texas Tollway Authority as the agency has a web of connections with engineering firms, law firms, and other businesses. The NTTA board of directors has 90 days to make progress on 81 recommendations laid out in a new performance review. The report by New York City based Alvarez & Marsal came at the request of county judges in Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties. Among other recommendation to increase transparency, Alvarez & Marsal recommend the NTTA disclose their various conflicts of interest.  To read Olsen’s take, read his post on Texas Budget Source. 
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