Loose Lips

Fenty’s Office: What FOIAs? (Updated)

0331fentyCritics have long-charged Still Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration of not playing fair when it comes to Freedom of Information Act requests. LL thinks the critics make good points, but LL believes Fenty isn't much different from ALL politicians in giving little regard to open government laws. (Every couple of months, LL gets an e-mail from the state of Alaska saying they are extending their time to respond to a records request LL made in 2008 when he was working in Juneau, covering then-Gov. Sarah Palin.)

But the response LL got today from Fenty's office is pretty epic!

Here's how it began: LL thought it might be fun to keep score on which media outlets have been most aggressive in covering Fenty. One way to measure that is to look at how many Freedom of Information Act requests different news organizations have filed with the mayor's office. (It's also a cheap way to keep tabs on what the competition is working on.)

LL filed on Oct. 1 this FOIA with Sarah Latterner, the mayor's point person on FOIA requests:

Please consider this a FOIA request for a list of all FOIA requests made to the Executive Office of the Mayor beginning Jan 2, 2007 to the present.

Please include, in an excel format if possible, the following information for each FOIA request:

-Date FOIA request was made

-Name of person submitting the FOIA request

-Name of organization submitting the FOIA request

-Description of the FOIA request

-Date the FOIA request was answered.

And here's the response LL got from Latterner today: "Your request returned no findings within the Executive Office of the Mayor."

Say what? LL has looked over his request about a dozen times to make sure there's not some stupid mistake he made that would explain the Latterner's response. LL's not seeing it, and neither are his co-workers.

LL knows for a fact that the Executive Office of the Mayor has received FOIA requests because he's submitted a handful of them himself. Here's one LL even posted, with Latterner saying, you guessed it, “Your request returned no findings within the Executive Office of the Mayor.” (Really? What about the FOIA LL submitted on the FOIAs? That counts, right?)

What's even more weird is that in her e-mail to LL, Latterner helpfully suggests that LL check out this city website that has yearly reports on FOIA issues. Those reports indicate that the Executive Office of the Mayor received four FOIA requests in fiscal 2009, 52 in fiscal 2008 and 31 in fiscal 2007.

LL has made calls and sent an e-mail to Latterner to get an explanation and will update as necessary. LL's hoping there's a simple explanation to this, other than the fact that the Fenty folks just don't give a crap about following the law.

Update: This just keeps getting better. Here is Latterner's response:

"Mayor Fenty has received FOIA requests during his term, sorry, that is not what my response was indicating. Rather, the Executive Office of the Mayor does not maintain a list of such FOIA requests in the form and format that you are seeking.

I hope this is helpful."

No, Sarah, it's not helpful. LL has now submitted a new request for "copies" of every request made to the EOM under Fenty. LL will update when he gets a response saying it'll cost $13,057 to answer that request.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Keith B

    Thank god they'll be out of here soon. Do you have those stats on FOIA requests from the Williams administration? It's hard to imagine things being worse than under Nickles, but hopefully it's not an entrenched thing in doing business with the DC government.

  • Southeast Resident

    King Fenty and Grandpa Munster Nickles deemed that the citizens don't need information on their dealings in the interest of national security. They both are graduates of the George W. Bush Memorial School for Covert Activities. There is a job waiting for both of them either at the CIA or the Republican National Committee.

  • Terry Miller

    I hate to side with Fenty in any way shape or form, but you did ask the wrong question. If you had asked for copies of all the FOIA's requests and the responses, they would have had to produce the documents, possibly with names and other identify informaiton removed. But FOIA does not require that an agency create a document that does not exist at the time of the request. So, technically, the response was true, no documents exist which are responsive to your request.

  • Truth Hurts

    This type of nonsense has been District govt SOP for at least 30 years. Doesn't make it right. But anyone who thinks it's a Fenty/Nickles--hatched plot must be fresh on the scene.

  • Brahmin

    Mayor Williams, Sharon Pratt Kelly, Mayor Barry and I suspect Walter Washington all worried about FOIA request they didn't ignore them.

    Mayor Williams actually had several embarassing episodes because of FOIA request but to his credit never thought to deny them.

    This was so much the rule--that as an employee of the Mayor we did not send emails willy nilly. We knew any emails could be sent.

    Now you can delete things from a server but unless they take it with them---someone could retrieve the information once they leave.

    They better hope no one wants that kind of information to get specialist in that feild.

  • downtown rez

    Ha! Amateur.
    In any situation such as this, the first rule is to know what question to ask.

  • http://deleted TripLBee

    This is the guy you endorsed LL. Thank God the people of DC have more sense than you.

  • DCexpat

    There's also a clause of FOIA that disallows requests for superfluous and burdensome information that is not readily available. For example you could ask for lists of city employees birthdates that constitute prime numbers, or restaurant licenses for places using ground cumin, and you'd get the same response. So as said above, request copies of all FOIA requests (or birthdates or restaurant licenses) and do your own damn work. Or stop harassing the lame ducks and start advocating for an Office of FOIA Accountability or some crap like that.

  • http://www.eatme.com Dude

    How could Sarah Latterner get the mayor's dick out of her mouth long enough to answer? I call BS.

  • Martha

    Wow - a journalist who does not even know what FOIA is. You get to ask government officials to provide you with copies of existing documents -- you don't get to ask government officials to do research and create a new document for you in the excel format of your choosing.

  • American Rogue

    The rise and fall of "frat-brat wimpy kandy kane boy" fenty is case study that should be taught in political studies and urban studies for years to come. The dynamic behind the lesson is one that the US auto industry is still struggling to learn: What people really remember is not how sleek your presentation was to them when they were in the show room (or while you are courting their vote). Rather, it is how they are treated once they need the vehicle repaired and how often it needs to be repaired (or how you conduct yourself when asked to explain trips, the lending of DC property to others, the awarding of city contracts.)

    fenty won election with a solid block of support from the DC citizenry. In four years, numerous actions such as the one described with this FOIA request generated such enmity, that the same citizenry voted his grinning cheese monkey behind out of office. Being a Government employee who has had occasion the to respond to FOIAs, I am aware the Government is not responsible for producing new documents in its reply. However, a Government Office, even a DC Government Office, should be staffed with persons cognizant of at least part of the bigger picture: 1. the DC Government works to serve the citizenry and its advocates; 2. compliance with the spirit of the FOIA is most important when the FOIA request is defective (only marginally so - he requested an excel spreadsheet "if possible").

    A staffer in my office would still be vibrating off the floor, walls, and ceiling from the "tongue-lashing" he/she would receive for issuing a response such as the one LL received. The more appropriate response would have been to provide copies of the FOIA requests (properly redacted) and advise LL that we do not create new documents such as spreadsheets. (see my posts to LL's column entitled "To the losers go the spoils." My posts are # 17 and 50).

  • LOL

    Yeah, they don't have to make a document. It seems like both your request and their response could have been clearer.

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    Typical autocratic shit that's been going on in this administration from day one. Anything they don't want to deal with, in comes the semantics along with (sir spinsalot) Peter Nichols to make it look legal, don't be too surprised if he's indicted at some point and he knows it. Don't be to hard on Sarah cause she's just doing her job, but she bears watching though, with her healthy self. I predict that history will view this administration as the most currupt ever, wait and you will see what I'm talking about. Laws didn't mean a thing to these people.

  • DCNatives

    Wasn't Fenty the Jerk City Paper endorsed for mayor? Enough said!

  • Robert Vinson Brannum

    While they do not address the specifics of LL's FOIA request, the following links provide the required FOIA reports of the DC Office of the Secretary for the fiscal years 2009, 2008, and 2007.

    Robert Vinson Brannum




  • HCM

    What should be happening is that Ms. Sarah Latterner and other FOIA Officers, is that she should be grabbed under both armpits and arrested (USC Title 18 section 1001) for promulgating official documents and making false statements in an attempt to thwart the Freedom of Information Act.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com try2staysanendc

    Hey HCM given the description of Sara Latterner aka Miss Piggy by others on this blog that grabbing her up under the arms maybe a hard task to complete. Make sure the cops bring plenty of reinforcement. She's a big gal. Lol

  • http://bing.com Anothernative

    @try2staysanendc, I think you must have the wrong Sarah Latterner, she hasn't an ounce of excessive fat on her. I'm sure any cop would take pleasure in that task and wouldn't want backup.

  • what

    Sarah latterner is in great physical shape - is slim and runs a lot. Not sure why she's being called Ms. Piggy.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com try2staysanendc

    Sorry folks. Wrong Sarah... Peace

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com try2staysanendc

    Sorry folks wrong Sarah...Right Sara Lasner.. My bad.

  • allseeing

    I have already been ripped off and had some of my work stolen by the WTU and that is a very bad sign of things to come under Gray's watch.
    Those filthy type of people have been in and around DC for years and that's why the schools were so messed up and kids getting abused.

    75% of the people who work for DC government and its agencies are some pretty fucked up in the mind people. Most of them are truly mentally ill and a danger to kids. I feel so sorry for the kids.


    @allseeing, Can't you see that people are trying to ignore your ignorant a**, stop being a jerk and get some mental health help.