Useful Summary of Open Government Rights – New from D.C. Office of Open Government
Fritz Mulhauser | April 11, 2021 | Last modified: April 13, 2021
Published April 7 from the central D.C. government office watching out for open meetings and FOIA, see this handy “open government bill of rights.”
Text seems generally correct. But note:
- Both “open” and “right to be present” have a new meaning as long as the public health emergency lasts (currently until May 20, 2021). Meetings are typically virtual — that is, open only on an Internet platform.
- And note regarding fees charged by D .C. agencies for records requests: the agency “may” grant a waiver but is not required to do so (and the courts have backed up agency refusals). D.C. Code § 2-532 (b).
The Public’s “Bill of Rights” to An Open and Transparent Government
The Office of Open Government is releasing this “Bill of Rights” to set forth the public’s expectations regarding DC Government’s responsibility to operate in a manner that is open and transparent. This list is not exhaustive and its intent is to provide the public with a brief overview of its rights to an open and transparent government pursuant to the Opening Meetings Act (“OMA”), D.C. Official Code § 2-571 et seq.; and, the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), D.C. Official Code § 2-531 et seq.
- You have the right to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the actions of those who represent the public.
- You have the right to receive advance notice of a public body’s meeting date and the planned agenda of the meeting. Public bodies are boards and commissions and similar entities. Examples include the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC Board), the DC Public Charter School Board (DCPCSB), and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).
- You have a right to be present during the open portion of a public body’s meeting.
- You have the right to comment at a public meeting if the law authorizes a period of public comment or the public body reserves a period for public comment.
- You have the right to receive copies of the roll call vote and statement citing the reason for the closure of a public meeting when a public body enters into a closed/executive session.
- You have the right to inspect, and at your discretion, to copy any public record of a public body subject to stated exemptions in the law.
- You have the right to request a waiver of cost of a records request, which must be granted if the public body finds granting the waiver is in the public interest.
- You have the right to receive advance notice of the costs of your records request.
- You have the right to receive, within 15 business days, unless the public body invokes for statutory reasons a 10-business day extension, a written determination of your FOIA request for public records.
- You have the right to appeal to the Mayor or D.C. Superior Court a full or partial denial of your FOIA request for records.
- You have the right file a complaint with the Office of Open Government to initiate an investigation of an alleged violation of the OMA or FOIA.
-Authored by Chief Counsel of Open Government, Johnnie Barton. For additional information, please contact the Office of Open Government via telephone at 202-481-3411 or via e-mail at email@example.com.