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Court: Internet group must provide access

The nonprofit group that governs the Internet is subject to California laws and must allow its board members to inspect its financial records, a Superior Court judge ruled in late July.

Judge Dzintra Janavs ordered ICANN – Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers – to make its documents available to Karl Auerbach, a Santa Cruz computer researcher.

The publicly elected board member said the group delayed his request numerous times and issued a policy that limited his access rights, according to The Associated Press.

Janavs ruled that state law does not permit nonprofit corporations to place any restrictions or conditions on their board members’ inspection rights.

ICANN will consider whether to appeal the decision after reviewing the court’s written judgment, group spokeswoman Mary Hewitt said in a prepared statement.

Auerbach contends that ICANN has become beholden to corporate interests, although it was created to regulate and develop the World Wide Web.

A coalition of the Internet’s business, technical, academic and user communities formed ICANN in 1998 to manage domain names and other numbering systems.

Pennsylvania adopts records law reforms

As expected, Pennsylvania Gov. Mark S. Schweiker signed into law a bill intended to improve the public’s access to state and local government records a day after the measure won final approval of the state House of Representatives in June.

“This legislation makes one thing perfectly clear: Every Pennsylvanian has a right to monitor the public officials they elect to serve the public interest,” Schweiker said.

The measure, which was approved June 28 and signed into law the next day, overhauls Pennsylvania’s 44-year-old public-records law by setting deadlines for agencies to respond to requests for records, requiring government offices to provide reasons for denying access in writing, and imposing fines on individuals and agencies that violate the law. The law passed 199-1.

Democratic Rep. Gregory S. Vitali voted against the measure, saying it does not define what records are open to the public and allows Pennsylvania residents to request only government documents.

Open-records advocates considered Pennsylvania’s former Right to Know Law one of the weakest in the nation, The Associated Press reported. It assumed that a government record could be kept from public view unless specifically designated by law as open for inspection.

Denver mayor nixes destruction of files

Siding with civil rights advocates, Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver said in late July that he would ignore an independent panel’s recommendation to destroy secret police files of political activists.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which disclosed the existence of the police files in March, sued the city to preserve the documents until questions were answered about why they were kept, The Associated Press reported.

“They definitely document police misconduct,” said Mark Silverstein, Colorado ACLU executive director. “We need to know why police regarded peaceful political protests as crime scenes.”

A panel of three former judges made recommendations to Webb. The panel found that none of the 3,200 files on individuals or 208 files on organizations met reasonable standards of criminal activities.

Panel member Roger Cisneros, a retired Denver judge, said police wrongly labeled political groups as extremists because they were believed to have caused problems in other cities.

Webb agreed with the judges that the files should be removed from the police computer system and that individuals and organizations mentioned in them should be allowed to see what was written.

Webb spokesman Andrew Hudson said steps were under way to ensure police keep the files only when there is reasonable suspicion of possible criminal activity.