December  2012    
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  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 

Follow NEFAC's ongoing First Amendment conversation as it develops across New England  
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Thank You To
NEFAC Report
   Our thanks to the journalists and right-to-know advocates who have contributed to The NEFAC Report since our format change in July
  If you'd like to add to the conversation in future issues, contact Larry Laughlin at [email protected]

- Steven Brown,
ACLU of 
 Rhode Island

David Collins
New Haven (Conn.) Register

- Rodney K. Doherty,
Foster's Daily Democrat,
Dover, NH

- Jack Encarnacao,
Patriot Ledger, Quincy. Mass.

- Anne Galloway,
Montpelier, Vt.

Meg Heckman,
Concord (NH) Monitor

-   Matt Hongoltz-Hetling,
Morning Sentinel,
Waterville, Maine

 - Tom Kearney
Stowe Reporter and
Waterbury Record, Vt.

- Dan Kennedy
Northeastern University
School of Journalism

- Ann Kim,
Portland (Maine) Press Herald

- Mal Leary,
Capitol News Service,
Augusta, Maine

- Kathryn Marchocki,
New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester, NH
Common Cause Rhode Island

- Tom Nash
MuckRock, Boston

- Annmarie Timmins,
Concord Monitor

- Jonathan Van Fleet,
The Telegraph of Nashua

 Keep up with First Amendment issues via NEFAC's blog

   It's a forum for citizens, journalists, students, public policy advocates and government officials to have their say on First Amendment issues.
   The blog is maintained by the staff of the New England First Amendment Center at the School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
   Submit comments to Laura Crimaldi:
MuckRock Opens FBI File on the Late Boston Mayor Kevin White
By Tom Nash  

   BOSTON - A few weeks ago, WBZ's Jon Keller used his slice of the  "rants and raves" segment on WGBH's "Beat the Press" to accuse The Boston Globe of smearing a man who couldn't defend himself. The man in question is former Boston Mayor Kevin White, who died in January. 

Jim Nash foto

   A few months ago I received - and published - his FBI files.
   I'm not from Boston, but I know a good FOIA request when I see one, and it took me about 30 seconds to see White's obit and ask the FBI for that file.
   That's the beauty of MuckRock, a public records automation site and news outlet dedicated to making the documents sitting in dusty filing cabinets accessible to everyone. Our motto is "File first, ask questions later."

   So after, not before, I filed a request with the FBI, I began looking into his time as mayor. While he oversaw a major transformation of the city, it seemed an obvious cloud hung over him.  

   Various associates were brought down in corruption probes. He emerged without any charges, but it seemed impossible that his name hadn't crossed the FBI's desk.  Read more    

RI Shines a Bit More Sunlight on Groups Picking Up the Tab on Officials' Junkets
By John Marion 
   PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The news came because of tips and leaks: third parties are picking up the tab for legislators' junkets.
   First it was Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio going to Buenos Aires in the fall of 2011 on a junket paid for by a group called the Senate President's Forum (and missing a key bill introduction because his return flight was delayed by a volcanic eruption).
   Then it was the national controversy over the American
Marion, john
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) flying state representatives to conferences and providing them with "scholarships."
   The question became, how many of these trips are Rhode Island politicians and policy makers taking, and who is paying for them?  As a leading group working on government transparency, Common Cause Rhode Island decided to find out.
   In May 2012 we asked the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, a body that has jurisdiction over financial disclosure, to create a rule requiring the information be made public.  Read more
Released Minutes Prove What Many Suspected - Meeting Could Have Been Open to Public 
By Jonathan Van Fleet    

   NASHUA, N.H. - Elected officials meet behind closed doors all the time.

   Sometimes it's to talk about the reputation of someone who's not a member of the board, or to talk about a real estate acquisition, or  

maybe contract negotiations, or a personnel matter. 

Van Fleet

   Call it whatever you want, executive session, non-public session, or even the absurd non-meeting, which is a provision in New Hampshire that allows boards to meet with an attorney without publicly posting the meeting and without taking any minutes whatsoever.

   Freedom of information laws, in New Hampshire it's called the Right to Know Law, provide certain narrow exceptions for our politicians to meet privately.  It's a system that requires politicians to self-police themselves, which makes our skin crawl.

    And journalists have suspected abuse, well, just about everywhere journalists work, and as long as there have been non-public sessions. The more meetings drag on while a reporter sits in the hallway, the more suspicion grows.  Read more

Deadline Is Jan. 7 for Citizen's Right to Know and Journalist FOI Awards Entries   
   The first annual awards for a private citizen and journalists whose tenacity shines light on New England government workings will be presented at NEFAC's annual luncheon on Feb. 8.
   The deadline for entries and nominations for the Citizen's Right to Know Award and the FOI Award is Jan. 7.
   Rosanna Cavanagh, NEFAC executive director, said the open-government coalition's board wanted to extend the range of recognition beyond the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, which will go to NECN and GlobalPost founder Philip Balboni.
   All three presentations will take place during NEFAC's annual luncheon at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in conjunction with the New England Newspaper & Press Association's 2013 convention and trade show. 
   Cavanagh said the board designed the Citizen's award "to recognize the fact that every breakthrough in the fight against government obfuscation is not made by professional journalists."
    "We want to honor the private citizen who through tenacity or even bravery overcomes obstacles to bring out information the public has a right to know," she said.
   The FOI Award will go to a journalist, pair of journalists or a media institution that protects or advances the public's right to know under federal or state law.
   Work in print, broadcast or online produced in calendar 2012 is eligible.
   Applicants should submit their story or series along with a cover letter explaining the process of getting the story, why it was a significant accomplishment and how it affected the public.
   Entries may be submitted electronically, though originals will be checked prior to notification of the winner.
   We welcome contributions to The NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, adademics or other advocates of government transparency.
   If you have something to add to the conversation, please let me know. Your  stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value. - - Larry Laughlin, NEFAC Report editor. ([email protected]).