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