Posted March 29th, 2010 by Larry Schecker - Special Counsel, Administrative Law Division, OGC
The newly-issued Chief FOIA Officer Report for the FCC demonstrates how the Commission is applying the President’s and the Attorney General’s guidance that the Freedom of Information Act is to be administered with a presumption of openness. General Counsel Austin C. Schlick, the FCC’s Chief FOIA Officer, led a review of the Commission’s FOIA operations. Key points reported by the Chief FOIA Officer include:
Much credit for the smooth handling of the Commission’s FOIA program can be given to members of the Office of Managing Director’s Performance Evaluation and Records Management FOIA staff: Shoko Hair (the FCC’s FOIA Public Liaison), Patricia Quartey, and Benish Shah. They ensure the FOIA requests received by the agency are quickly assigned to the proper Bureau or Office, send out acknowledgments of FOIA requests, and remind the FCC staff when deadlines are approaching. They, along with the FCC staff throughout the agency that search for and review the records sought by the public, all while performing their other duties, are the unsung heroes of the FOIA program at the FCC and deserve all praise for their efforts.
The Chief FOIA Officer as always welcomes suggestions to help the FCC’s FOIA program continue to operate successfully and to improve.
Posted February 3rd, 2010 by Larry Schecker - Special Counsel, Administrative Law Division, OGC
The FCC’s FOIA Annual Report for FY 2009 has just been posted as required by the FOIA. This year our report shows improvement in many areas. And new this year, in addition to a PDF of the report, all of the statistics are available in spreadsheets (CSV format) for the public to examine and use.
One interesting point from the report – 94% of the FOIA requests where we had responsive records were granted in whole or in part; only 6% were denied in full pursuant to one or more of the FOIA exemptions.
The FY 2009 report shows that we have dramatically reduced the backlog of FOIA appeals. At the start of FY 2009 we had 30 pending appeals, and we received 14 new appeals during the fiscal year. The Commission disposed of 37 appeals (either by decision or by informally resolving the appeal), leaving only 7 pending appeals at the start of FY 2010.
As we move forward, we aim to do even better. We are trying to process FOIA requests even faster. We are working to process appeals as quickly as possible, either resolving them informally or submitting the appeal to the Commission for decision. And under the President’s Open Government Directive, we are making more and more information available on the FCC’s website.
So, let me ask – what helpful information about the FOIA could we post that is is not on our website? Our Chief FOIA Officer, General Counsel Austin Schlick, wants to know!
Posted January 22nd, 2010 by Larry Schecker - Special Counsel, Administrative Law Division, OGC
On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama declared his commitment to transparency and accountability in government with the issuance of two important memoranda regarding Transparency and Open Government and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The presumption of openness of government processes and records would be the hallmark of the new administration. As legal counsel to the FOIA program at the FCC, I have seen firsthand how the Commission has embraced implementation of the President’s directives.
Interest in the workings of the FCC is at an all-time high and you can find out what is happening from the Commission’s website. I heard a colleague refer to the FCC’s website as a labyrinth with many passages leading to treasure troves of information. It will be easier to find this information as we redesign our website and make more records available on the Internet. But if you can’t find what you are looking for on our website, filing a FOIA request is the way to go. Filing a FOIA request couldn’t be easier – through our FOIA web page, by email, or by snail mail or fax. I deal with FOIA staff throughout the FCC and I am always impressed with their dedication to responding to FOIA requests as quickly as is possible. And, our FOIA Liaison is always available to help you.
I realized that our FOIA page provides a lot of background information but also wanted to assure you – give us some basic information and FCC staff will get to work finding the records you want. We need your name and contact information, and a good description of what records you want. Your request will be sent to the proper part of the FCC to search for the records. We will try to give you everything you want. There may be fees for processing your FOIA request. When you seek records for your personal use you get two hours of search time and the first 100 pages of records free, commercial users pay all costs, and the news media, educational and non-commercial scientific institutions only pay for copying more than 100 pages. I know you’d like to get everything, but under FOIA some things are not released – national security records, confidential commercial information, and personal private information, for example. FOIA also lets us withhold internal deliberative material and law enforcement records, but under the Obama Memo and the Attorney General’s FOIA guidance, we review and release those types of records unless we reasonably can see that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the FOIA exemptions.
So, ask away!