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Coalition Asks D.C. AG and IG to Review Actions Against Open Government

dcogcadmin | May 30, 2018

Only a few days remain until a final D.C. Council vote in early June that could strip the Office of Open Government of its role as independent watchdog over open meetings, public records requests and government transparency generally. Will the D.C. Attorney General or the Inspector General respond to calls for review of related actions already taken that contradict the law? Details here on the requests by the D.C. Open Government Coalition.

Citing “clear misinterpretations of law” in actions taken to remove the Office of Open Government director, advertise the position with incorrect limitations on its authority, and appoint an interim director without any lawful basis, D.C. Open Government Coalition president Thomas Susman has written D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine requesting appropriate action “to ensure D.C. law is followed.”  (See letter linked below.)

The Coalition remains hopeful the AG will respond soon.

The District’s top law enforcement official could assist the D.C. Council that has a pending proposal to go further to reduce the Office independence by making it a subordinate unit of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) that already signaled (by its prior actions) its “fundamental misunderstanding” of the Council law establishing the Office.

Earlier discussion of the pending Council proposal is in a blog post here.

Established in 2010, the Office was given a mission by the Council as an independent agency to oversee open government laws, provide vtraining for agency staff, and investigate compaints. The latest moves analyzed in the Coalition letter undermine the explicit language and intent of the Council statute, and to observers, suggest a goal of reducing pressure on D.C. agencies to follow the laws. Opposition began as agency heads contacted BEGA when detailed Office investigations sought reversal of improper practices in several high profile units such as a mayor’s community advisory committee, a judicial appointment commission, the charter school board, and the United Medical Center nonprofit corporation board.

“Executive misinterpretation of the law is due no deference,” wrote Susman, “and we ask that you…review the actions of BEGA and provide corrective guidance.”

A similar letter went to D.C. Inspector General Daniel Lucas.