Office of DC General Council Orders DMPED to Release Hine Documents
Efforts to Shield Documents from FOIA “Reversed and Remanded”
by Larry Janezich
The DC Office of General Council today reversed and remanded the decision by the Office of Deputy Mayor for Economic Development (DMPED) to shield documentation on the Hine project from a FOIA request filed by attorney Oliver Hall. Hall is counsel to the Hine Coalition – the group of Capitol Hill residents who are appealing the Zoning Commission’s approval of the Hine project. The order came after the release earlier today of a message from Chair Muriel Bowser’s Committee on Economic Development critical of DMPED’s transparency on the Hine project.
In its ten page ruling (available on Capitol Hill Corner’s Library page above) Deputy General Counsel Donald Kaufman finds that DMPED did not justify its withholding of information well enough or specifically enough to qualify for an exemption which the law permits.
The Office of General Counsel invited DMPED to provide the documentation in question for “in camera” (private) review in order to determine whether they met the threshold for exemption from FOIA. In response, DMPED provided only “samples”, none of which met the thresholds.
The ruling stands as a victory for attorney Oliver Hall, especially since the General Counsel’s office is on record as saying, “…disclosure of the amount which the District receives from the sale or lease of its assets is in the public interest.”
On October 10, Hall filed an appeal directly to the Mayor regarding DMPED’s the denial of his FOIA request for documents related to the Hine project. The filing objected to the failure of DMPED to produce public documents in response to a FOIA request in three instances: first, its failure to make public contracts available on its website; second, its failure to produce responsive documents; and third, its redaction of portions of public contracts. All three, the filing said, are violations of DC code. The letter requested relief from all three and suggested prosecution for any party found to have committed an “arbitrary and capricious violations of the [FOIA].” See here: http://bit.ly/19IqahR
“We won on almost all counts” Hall said. He continued, “DMPED has to produce all documents they withheld. As far as I can tell, the only point we lost on is our request that DMPED be ordered to place all public contracts online in every case.”
On September 19, Capitol Hill Corner reported on DMPED’s efforts to stonewall access to the Hine documents. See here: http://bit.ly/1aX2szx
4 responses to “Office of DC General Council Orders DMPED to Release Hine Documents”
More transparency is always a good thing. Hope the thing gets built but am also glad to have the details of the deal out in the open. Well done.
Hope the project goes forward soon. I’m sick of the back and forth– the school needs to be demolished.
We citizens, and our elected representatives, were part of a flawed decision-making process that resulted in a narrow majority of ANC6B approving the Hine Planned Unit Development (PUD). This approval — and the strong support given by Council Member Tommy Wells and developers Stanton-EastBank — swayed the two civic bodies — the Historic Review Board and the DC Zoning Commission to pretty well rubber stamp the Hine PUD. Citizens using reason were no match for a process that had been set in motion far away from public scrutiny. In fact we realize now that both these public processes were largely dumb show and noise.
Yes, now our current belated efforts to discover the fine print, and the hidden decision-making, are yielding some victories. But we are learning that really the only time — the only time — that our attempts to save the historic neighborhood around Eastern Market would had to have been much earlier — at the very beginning of this ersatz process — before the City Council, led by this developer and this Ward 6 Council Member, voted in favor of the Hine PUD. Admittedly, that Council vote was taken in public — but with little forward notice or publicity. And, predictably, it took us neighbors about TWO YEARS to inform ourselves and gain sufficient numbers and learn where and how to express our dismay and outrage that this ugly, much too tall, much too dense, and entirely inappropriate development is being perpetrated on us by our city. Too late.
We had chosen a different developer in the ersatz “public” round table discussions and later citizen meetings held by Mr. Wells and Stanton-EastBanc. We offered economic and architectural and quality-of-life (congestion, traffic, parking) reasons for lowering the height and including open space in the plans. All were trumped by those higher up and far away, drinking the kool aid of so-called ‘smart’ growth — and money — familiar, but rancid drinks concocted by development economists fifteen years ago.
So what of our bijou neighborhood of Capitol Hill. It creepeth evermore towards being like Clarendon or Bethesda.
We need politicians who will fight the ever regnant developers. We need strong, brave public servants. Where are they?
Very well stated, Wendy. If the plans had been left as originally accepted by the Council – and the community – there would be no problem. But now we’re left with an ugly example of what Bait & Switch really means!