FOIA and Privatization of Government
A democracy works best when the people have all the information that security of the nation permits. With these words, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law. This law may seem straight forward, but has been severely complicated since the 1990s due to the growing trend of privatization of government. Many are worried that privatization of services such as military operations, homeland security, the prison system, and interstate railroad operations will diminish the effect of FOIA.
Here is an example from a local government agency:
I (your professor) spent a good deal of time as Deputy Chief of New York States largest all-volunteer EMS agency. This NYS non-profit corporationhas an exclusive contract with the town it serves to provide emergency medical care to a specific jurisdiction. Unlike a fire district (which is a public entity and subject to FOIA) my EMS agency is not subject to FOIA.
In 2005, Newsdaywrote a series of feature articles discussing fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption (FWAC) in the volunteer fire and EMS services. Most of this investigative reporting was a result of information received via FOIA/FOIL requests. Newsdaydid a very good job in helping to reduce FWAC in fire departments and public EMS agencies. However, my EMS agency, unFOIA/FOIL-able, always refused to turn over financial information, and was completely shielded from the financial investigations of Newsday.
Your first task is to research the issue of FOIA and the privatization of government. There has been a lot published on this topic since the mid-1990s. Try to find some examples similar to the EMS agency. Once you have some good reference materials, address the following issues (at a minimum):
Should private corporations be subject to FOIA requests if they utilize public funding? What are the arguments for and against this? If yes, to what degree?
Should there be differences between privatization of traditional governmental services (law enforcement, the prison system, transportation) and private corporations using public funding for non-traditional services (providing day care to the children of government employees, meals-on-wheels)?
Try to find examples of FWAC in private corporations and non-profits that were not subject to FOIA, but may have been prevented by FOIA based investigations.
If FOIA/FOIL legislation cannot force private corporations to respond to requests for information, is there anything that could be done by the contracting government agency to mitigate this?
If you have any personal experiences with this issue, please feel free to share.
<Dont forget to cite sources where appropriate and provide links to appropriate documents and websites.>