This is Judge Stuart G. Nash
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:20:47 -0700
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: Judge Rules that ANC Commissioners Can’t Hide behind Private Email Accounts
Friends of McMillan Park
For Release: July 18, 2014
Contact: Erin Fairbanks, email@example.com, 240-506-6777, @CzarinaMaude
Judge Rules that ANC Commissioners Can’t Hide behind
Private Email Accounts
In a major victory for open government, transparency, and accountability, DC Superior Court Judge Stuart G. Nash has ordered the District Government to turn over emails requested by Friends of McMillan Park that were sent or received by Commissioner Dianne Barnes, former Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5E, using her personal Yahoo email account. Judge Nash held that government officials cannot avoid their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using non-government email accounts to conduct official business. The emails relate to the District's proposed development of historic landmark McMillan Park.
“We are extremely pleased with Judge Nash’s order because it means that government officials cannot avoid FOIA requests and hide their activities from the public by using Yahoo, Gmail, or other private email accounts rather than their government-supplied email account,” said Kirby Vining, a leader of Friends of McMillan Park, who filed the FOIA request. The Friends believe that the requested documents will shed light on the contracting processes used by the District. “It appears that the District ignored the usual contracting rules when it awarded the McMillan contracts,” he added.
Although the District argued that Commissioner Barnes’s Yahoo emails were not covered by FOIA because the emails were not stored on a government computer, Judge Nash roundly disagreed. He ruled that the emails were in the possession of the government and covered by FOIA because the emails were in the possession of a government official and were related to the official duties of that official.
In a court order issued on July 9, Judge Nash detailed his reasoning and ordered the District to produce the requested emails by July 28, 2014.
Mr. Vining submitted his FOIA request to ANC 5E on November 1, 2013 seeking documents related to the proposed development of McMillan Park. He is represented by Don Padou, an attorney specializing in FOIA actions.
Friends of McMillan Park seeks to transform the McMillan Sand Filtration Site along North Capitol Street NW, into a world-class destination that celebrates McMillan’s unique social history, engineering expertise, architectural beauty, and contiguous open green space.