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Showing posts with label FOIA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FOIA. Show all posts

Monday, August 6, 2018


Today, I had the privilege of paying $75.00 to the town of Lisbon for information I never asked for.  When you ask for information under the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), you are at the mercy of the town.  The town determines what information they want to provide to you and how long it will take them to gather the information.  The cost is determined by state law.  The first hour is free but all hours after the first; you have to pay $15.00 per hour.
My original FOAA request is below:
Mrs. Colston
This is a FOAA request.
I am looking for the money taken out of the Undesignated Fund the last four years.  Can you provide this information by years?
Thank you
I did not ask for any detail of what the money was used for; I ONLY asked for the amount taken out of the Undesignated Fund for the last four years.  What I received was:
 In response to Larry Filmore’s FOAA request:
2016:     $10,293.47 was taken from unassigned fund balance to cover charter requirements for maintaining a reserve funded by animal control fees
2017: N/A nothing was designated or spent from fund balance.
2018:  The following amounts were designated and spent from fund balance:
                $50,000 for computer server upgrade.  $30,663 has been spent to date.
                $20,000 has been designated for Generator pad and infrastructure
                $30,000 was designated for Town clerk storage.  $26,547 was spent an
                                the remainder put back into fund balance
                $40,000 was designated and spent for Police radio upgrades
                $35,000 was designated and spent for a Police cruiser
                $75,000 was designated for the Fire Department Capital Improvements
                $300,000 was designated for public works trucks.  $275,445 was spent
                                  and the remainder put back into fund balance
                $20,000 was designated and spent for Recreation Department
                $25,000 was designated for new flooring in various town buildings.  The
                                money was not required and was put back into fund balance.
2019:  The following amounts have been designated for use during the upcoming year:
                $26,125 for an error in 2018 Technology budget
                $50,000 to establish an accrued leave payout reserve
                $10,000 for Book restorations in the clerks office
                $7,800 for Police Department firearms upgrades
                $50,000 for the Fire Department various equipment upgrades
                $8,000 for carpeting in the Library          
                $323,274 to pay off outstanding debt service.
According to the town, I was billed for 5 hours to put this information together.  I cannot understand why it took so long to gather this information.   The Finance Director has, not one but two, computer system in which to extract this information which should have taken 15 minutes per year at the most. By the way, we taxpayers are paying for both systems to be operating at the same time.
Also, if you look the town did not provide what I ask for and that was the total amount per year.  Instead they provided some detail but I challenge this information because the town claims that NO funds were taken from the Undesignated Fund in 2017.  This has to be a mistake because the Town Council spends money like drunken sailors without accountability.
I personally believe that this is an attempt to discourage citizens from challenging the Town Manager, Diane Barnes’ budgeting actions and to punish those that do.  The Finance Director did not comply with the original request but provided information that was not requested; which is a violation of state law.
Residents beware when dealing with the town and especially the Town Manager.
Larry Fillmore


Thursday, July 31, 2014

GOPDD: BREAKING: Judge Orders Eric Holder to Release Fast and Furious Documents Withheld From Congress Under Obama Executive Privilege Claim‏

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit pursued against the Department of Justice by government watchdog Judicial Watch, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled documents being withheld from Congress under President Obama’s claim of executive privilege must be turned over. Obama made the claim on the same day Attorney General Eric Holder was voted in criminal and civil contempt of Congress in June 2012.
“This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time, to provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal,” Judicial Watch released in a statement.
The FOIA lawsuit has been ongoing for 16-months and is now proceeding after a lengthy delay. The Justice Department originally asked the court for an indefinite hold on a FOIA request from Judicial Watch, citing executive privilege and an ongoing investigation. That indefinite hold request was shot down more than a year ago.
The documentation DOJ is required to now turn over is a “Vaughn index” of “all requested Fast and Furious materials from a June 2012 Judicial Watch FOIA request.”
A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.” In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”
“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people. This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”
This is a huge step forward.

Monday, March 17, 2014

We might have to help them out with some FOAA Action~The Daily Caller: Justice Department won’t release names of lawyers responsible for more than 650 ethical violations

Eric "holdout" Holder
 By Patrick Howley

The Department of Justice will not disclose the names of its lawyers responsible for more than 650 ethical violations found in internal agency watchdog reports.
DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility documented more than 650 examples of its lawyers violating department ethics rules, according to a review of internal documents and OPR reports compiled by the Project on Government Oversight.
The review, spanning fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2013, found more than 400 cases of recklessness or intentional misconduct, according to OPR’s own standards. The office investigated approximately 2,100 alleged abuses during this time.
DOJ upholds a practice of not disclosing the names of lawyers identified by OPR as having committed offenses.
“The result: the Department, its lawyers, and the internal watchdog office itself are insulated from meaningful public scrutiny and accountability,” concluded the Project on Government Oversight.
Federal attorneys misled courts at least 48 times, including 20 intentional violations, breached constitutional or civil rights 13 times, and did not provide exculpatory information to defendants 29 times, according to OPR.
OPR also found examples in fiscal year 2012 in which lawyers were given brief suspensions or letters of admonishment for severe instances of misconduct.
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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Freedom of Access Act (FOAA)‏ Program


Title 1 General Provision, Chapter 13:  Public Records and Proceedings, Subchapter 1: Freedom of Access, Statue 402 Definitions outline the Public Records which can be obtained by individuals.  This Statue also outlines the exceptions that cannot be obtained.

So why is this statue part of Maine Law?  Lawmakers established this program as the tool to be used by citizens when transparency in government no longer exists.  This program was created as a check and balance procedure to ensure residents of Maine would be able to find out what is going on in their towns and at the state level.  The program provides a way for the people to get answers to their questions when our elected officials do not want to divulge this information.

Representative Mary Nelson (D-Falmouth) and Judy Meyer, Chairlady for the Right to Know Advisory Committee are representing the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) and trying to change the current procedures.  Mrs. Meyer went so far as to state she felt the court should stop any and all requests deemed a NUISANCE.  I cannot understand why any FOAA requests that meet the requirements of the law can possible be considered a NUISANCE.  It is the individual’s right, under the law, to request any documents that meet the provisions of the law.  Apparently, Representative Nelson and Mrs. Meyer have something to hide; Why else would they want to deny the right of any Maine citizen to submit a FOAA request that qualifies under the Maine law?

The provisions of Representative Nelson's bill are totally ridiculous.  Representative Nelson’s bill would eliminate the $15.00 per hour charge after the first hour as the fee and allow the agency to dictate how long and what price they can charge for completing the FOAA request.  I had this situation happen to me.  I requested information that could have been extracted from the computer system in a matter of seconds.  However, it took the Finance Director several hours to gather the information and then the town charged me for each hour the Finance Director stated it took her to retrieve the information.  There are no checks and balances to ensure the accuracy of the time it takes to complete any requests.  Leaving it up to the agency is like having the fox guard the hen house.  There has to be guidelines established to ensure the integrity of the program. 

I, like Mr. Michael Doyle (Falmouth) utilize the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) program when my elected officials refuse to provide information.  I am sure my FOAA requests are a NUISANCE to town employees but it is MY RIGHT under the law and who is going to judge if my request is a NUISANCE or not.  My thought process is much different than anyone else. So who is going to deny me my right?  Who has the right to deny Mr. Doyle and others their right to request information under the law?  In both Mr. Doyle’s case and my own, we have discovered abnormalities in our local government.

Representative Nelson and Mrs. Meyer should be ashamed for trying to make it impossible for individuals to submit requests under the FOAA program.  It is easy to understand why the Maine Municipal Association wants to make it harder for citizens to challenge local government because they represent the municipalities.  But the bottom line is, there is a program in place that allows residents of Maine to request information from their town and state under the law.   And as long as these individuals meet the requirements of the statue, they should be able to submit as many as they want without any interference from the state or anyone else.

Mrs. Meyer is the Chairlady of the Right to Know Advisory Committee and she is supporting Representative Nelson’s bill.  How is this possible because if Mrs. Meyer is stating that these requests by Mr. Doyle and I are NUISANCE requests; then she is talking out of both sides of her mouth at the same time. 

You no longer have the Right to Know if you cannot submit a request for information under the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA). 

Larry Fillmore

[The FOIA Ombudsman] Getting Ready for Sunshine Week‏

'Getting Ready for Sunshine Week'

Sunshine Week is less than six weeks away! Agencies, what are you doing to prepare?

Last year, Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero sent a message during Sunshine Week to National Archives’ staff reminding them that FOIA is everyone’s responsibility and responding to access requests doesn’t rest solely on the agency’s FOIA and archival staff. [...]

You may view the latest post at

Best regards,
Kirsten Mitchell

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Modernizing FOIA

 The U.S. National Action Plan for the global Open Government Partnership is big news for FOIA. We’ve written about the plan’s five-part commitment for strengthening and modernizing the Freedom of Information Act.

One of the five components of the FOIA commitment calls for a new FOIA advisory committee: 
Please post.

Worth following.

Dwight Hines