To meet demands for transparency, more government agencies are publishing their public records online. These records have always been available with a written FOIA request, yet their easier online accessibility sometimes meets with resistance from interested parties. In one recent example, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is now publishing their warning letters online, available here. These letters are sent to people who have violated state law or FPPC regulations, but the infraction will not be fined unless it is repeated in the future. As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the California Political Attorneys Association (CPAA) has expressed concern that these letters should not be posted just a week after they are issued, as they may still contain unconfirmed accusations. The association claims that a month-long delay would allow more time for any inaccuracies to be addressed.
The CPAA also argued that the letters should be redacted of names and addresses to uphold practical obscurity and protect the people to which they were issued. However, these records have not been redacted in the past when they were requested in writing. To read more about the role of practical obscurity in public records, revisit some of our past blog posts:
- Records Posted Online Contain Redactions Not Present in Filings Requested in Person or by Mail
- Twenty Million Page Download of Court Documents Leads to Debate About PACER
- Madoff Scandal: A Good Example of How Records Become Public Indirectly