Lawmakers can't exempt certain documents from disclosure using a "speech and debate" statute, the Court of Appeals found.
JUNE 17, 2016 10:44 A.M.
Local lawmakers may have to release several hundred pages of additional documents about the redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration site following a recent decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
A three-judge panel last week ruled that the D.C. Council cannot withhold certain documents relating to the controversial project in Northwest based on a "speech and debate" exemption applied to the District’s Freedom of Information Act. Opponents of the site’s redevelopment call the ruling a victory because of the transparency the documents—including emails between Wilson Building staff and developers—would provide. Still, the case has been remanded to D.C. Superior Court, meaning Council attorneys could seek to exempt records from disclosure through other statutes.
Kirby Vining, one of the cofounders of Friends of McMillan Park, had filed a FOIA request a couple years ago that was in part denied by the Council. But on June 9, the Appeals Court ruled that the Council hadn’t sufficiently argued that a law meant to protect its staff from being subject to some litigation covered the exemption it had sought. (It’s called the Legislative Privilege Act.)