Thursday, October 31, 2013

BTV Update...

Proudly Serving Vermont Since 1875
The Vermont Federation of Sportsmens' Clubs has been actively following and diligently working against the City of Burlington's gun ban efforts since the issue first surfaced late last year. The Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights must be protected to save guns, shooting, hunting, fishing and trapping.
The Federation is fortunate to have members and allies who have a wide range and deep depth of skills and experience, which in this case includes people with decades of experience in government relations, litigation, and municipal law indeed combined, over a century of experience in those specialized fields, combining vast knowledge and experience, a powerful combination of resources.
The process of challenging government action via litigation/lobbying are also forms of war, though, again with concepts and words rather than projectiles. In the case of litigation challenging government action, the terrain is exceedingly complex, with many hidden traps that the government is very experienced in springing against those who are not wary. In lobbying it is a matter of getting the message right and directed correctly.
Starting a war at the wrong time, without choosing timing, terrain, and the posture and condition of your opponent with the utmost care, is the surest way to lose the war. The City of Burlington has five of its own full time in house attorneys on salary and at least one, probably two, of the most sophisticated and politically savvy law firms in Vermont on retainer.
When you lose a battle in litigation or legislation, the loss haunts you and everyone on your side (our side) now, and in the future, just as much a losing a war. You are stuck with a legal precedent and will never again have the chance to fight the same battles with the same resources that you could have had if you had more carefully chosen the time, place, and manner of attack.
The Federation is currently interacting with legal and legislative experts in the fields of law pertinent to what is happening in Burlington and will keep Vermonters posted on developments. It is more important to get the course of action correct, putting more concern on being right than just fast because
our Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights, which went to effect in 1988, must be protected. We lose this and it will be open season on shooting ranges.

Monday, October 28, 2013

WCAX: Church Street gun incident leads to charges

Existing state law resulted in his arrest and now federal a federal law will be used by
a federal law enforcement agency to have federal prosecutors brings charges in
federal court and if convicted he will serve time in a federal correctional facility and
then be on federal parole by federal parole officers.
Notice a trend here?  The Vermont prosecutors, courts, and corrections will not be
using our all ready overtaxed systems to handle a criminal problem for which the
federal resources exist.
Given the impressive criminal record of this individual, who violated numerous state
and federal laws, does anyone really think a municipal ordinance would have deterred him?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Burlington City Councilor reveals goal is to end preemption in Vermont

Burlington Councilor reveals goal is to end preemption in Vermont

By David Codrea of Gun Rights Examiner

To read David Codrea's article click on the link above. 


Friday, October 25, 2013

FOIA to City of Burlington 10-25-13

Subject: Freedom of Information Request - Response #4

Proudly Serving Vermont Since 1875
16 Millstone Blvd, Barre, VT 05641
To:       Robert Rusten, Chief Administrator, City of Burlington
            Miro Weinberger, Mayor, City of Burlington
            All Personnel in City Attorney's Office, City of Burlington
            All City Council Members, City of Burlington
            City Management Personnel, City of Burlington
            William Ellis Esq., McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan
Date:   October 25, 2013
RE:       Freedom of Information Request
Dear Mr. Rusten:
Please treat this as the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Club's (VFSC) initial response to your letter dated October 22 and to communications made in person to the undersigned on October 22 by Assistant City Attorney Eugene Bergman and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Scott Schrader during VFSC's initial trip to examine records that the City has begun to make available in response to VFSC's requests.
In making the points made in this correspondence, VFSC does not waive other issues that it may wish to raise in response to your October 22 letter or the verbal communications that day from Messrs. Bergman and Schrader.
As preliminary matters, VFSC wishes to direct the City's attention to its obligation to redact documents to remove only specifically exempt portions and to provide the remainder of documents, per explicit statutory requirement at Title 1, Section 318(e).  VFSC also notes the explicit provision by the Legislature in Section 315 that "It is the policy of this subchapter to provide for free and open examination of records consistent with Chapter I, Article 6 of the Vermont Constitution. Officers of government are trustees and servants of the people and it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize their decisions even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment." VFSC also notes that while, under Section 316(j) "A public agency may make reasonable rules to prevent disruption of operations, to preserve the security of public records or documents, and to protect them from damage," the term "rules" indicates policies of general applicability, developed in advance of a specific situation or controversy, and equally applicable to all requesters. The City has made no indication that it has developed any such generally applicable policies in advance, and VFSC asserts and insists that the City cannot make up standards on the fly to suit the City's own convenience in responding to VFSC's already-pending requests. One need not read very far into the Vermont Supreme Court case law noted in the annotations to Title 1 Subchapter 5 to see the unwavering rulings by the Court that the Legislature has already resolved doubts in favor of requesters over government claims of inconvenience, and that all ambiguities in the records law are to be resolved against government and in favor of requesters.
VFSC does not and will not accept the proposal made by the City to VFSC on October 22 that the City will allocate one day a week for VFSC to examine records, or that the City may proceed at its convenience or leisure to examine or provide records to VFSC.
VFSC also does not accept the City's self-serving contention in your October 22 letter and prior correspondence that VFSC's request somehow originated on October 8; it is and has at all times been clear that VFSC's requests originate in VFSC's initial September 18 request for records- notwithstanding the City's initial attempt, unfounded in either law or fact, to argue that "a request isn't really a request."
It is not lost on VFSC that the City did not begin to make any records available for examination until the day after a hearing and City Council action on the very subjects on which VFSC made inquiry over a month earlier. This is a flagrant departure from both spirit and letter of the law.
Much of what the City provided to VFSC for examination on October 22, such as minutes and agendas, should have been made immediately available within three days of VFSC's initial September 18 request, per the requirement at Section 318(a) that "the custodian of a public record shall promptly produce the record for inspection" and the requirement at (a)(2) to make records available within three days.
The law requires the City to do no less than to rigorously and diligently provide records for examination. Vermont's records law makes no exception for inconvenience or for situations where government has failed to keep and understand its own records in a manner that would allow it to comply with the law's requirement for prompt availability. Such an interpretation would reward and encourage poor record keeping.
Please make specific indication of how the City intends to accelerate and make good on its obligations under law, particularly with regard to the subjects and records highlighted in VFSC's October 8 correspondence (which do not waive or withdraw VFSC's initial broader requests), or in the alternative, please state with particularity that the City is refusing to do so, and the "head of agency" to which VFSC must appeal under Section 318.
Thank you;
Evan Hughes
Vice President - Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs

BTV City Council (Burlington leading Vermont on Gun Control)

At the Burlington City Council Meeting on Monday, Councilor Norm Blais, the driving force behind the gun control ordinance campaign in Burlington, proved what The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs has stated from the beginning: that what Burlington was pursuing is the dismantling of  the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights.  So, that towns and cities all over Vermont will have the power to enact gun control, hunting, shooting, fishing and trapping regulations.  We would then face a patchwork of conflicting municipal ordinances.  In his speech Councilor Blais states he hopes that Burlington's action of that night starts such a state-wide attack on your rights.  Just read the last four sentences of his floor speech.   (Thanks to Chris Bradley for transcribing Councilor Blais' floor speech)
Part 2 of the recording (link to this is above), at 51:21 into the recording, Councilor Blais is given the floor:
Thank you President Shannon.  I'd like to start by commending Councilor Siegel for the excellent work that she did on all these issues.  Any suggestion that she conducted the hearings in secrecy or somehow behind closed doors is just not true.  Throughout the entire process, Councilor Siegel was open and inviting, not just to folks that may have been in agreement with our point of view, but she was also open to the gun community.  Ian Galbraith came to every one of our meetings, he is an excellent spokesman for his cause, and there was nothing about the process itself that should be called into question and I think that Councilor Siegel did an excellent job to make sure that all opinions were voiced.  So the comments I have to make now I am not going to repeat for each of the resolutions, but I think that some of the issues that have been raised need to be addressed. 
People have suggested that what we are doing is violative of State Statute and that is absolutely wrong.  What we are doing is in full harmony with what is contemplated by state statute.
If these resolutions pass this evening, in accordance with State law for any Charter Change, our voters will have to weigh in on whether or not the voters approve of what we have done.  And if the voters approve, it then goes to the legislature where the General Assembly will have an opportunity to determine if the specific Charter Change in effect trumps the general legislation with regard to gun possession and ownership.  So any suggestion that what we are doing here is illegal is just absolutely wrong.  What we are doing, in addition to being open and frank, is in full harmony with State Statute.
With regard to the claim that what we are doing is unconstitutional, that is likewise wrong.  There is not a single constitutional right that is unfettered.  There is not a single constitutional right, from the right of free speech, to the right to a jury trial, all those rights are subject to reasonable regulation by governmental entities.  And for someone to suggest this evening that what is being proposed is not reasonable regulation, I do not think is facing with the reality of what we are talking about.
For people to suggest that acting as a Municipality we want to ban firearms from bars, that is a no brainer.  And I would suggest that all of these resolutions that have been proposed will meet constitutional muster. 
If people say to us, well, if you pass these matters we are going to sue you, I welcome that opportunity.  I think that over the next few years, with the enactment of comparable legislation in communities and in states there will be wealth of litigation, I think I welcome that opportunity and I am confident that the measures that are being proposed here tonight will be seen as reasonable measures taken by a municipality to protect its citizens.
The last comment I would like to make I think relates to some matters that have been mentioned tonight that I think goes to the heart of why there is opposition to what we are doing.  The opposition, the fear, the threat is that if this passes in Burlington, god-forbid other Vermont towns might follow suit.
And that is not a fear, from my perspective that is a hope.
I hope that Burlington takes the lead in passing measures that will make our citizens safe, and I hope that once it is proven to be legal, that other communities will follow suit.
So I would, and again I will not repeat myself for each of these four measures, but I hope that fellow councilors will approve all four of the Charter Change resolutions that have been proposed.
Thank You.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thank You to all of the folks who stood up for the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights

The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs extends its gratitude to all
of the folks who called and/or E-mailed the city officials of Burlington in
opposition to the gun control ordinances the city council and mayor are

A very special thanks to all of the folks who were there on Monday night.
It takes a unique devotion to freedom and protecting our Vermont
Sportsmen's Bill of Rights to show up at a public event after a long day.

A salute to all who stand up for the rights we have inherited and to protect
those rights for future generations.  This battle with Burlington is far from
over and we will stand together in the upcoming steps in protecting freedom.
We started out with 200 hunter orange handbills and only had 13 left.  For
the public testimony perdition of the city council meeting the chamber was
standing room only the second floor balcony had to opened to make room
for our folks.  The VPR photo below was taken during a break in the
proceeding and many people had left the room.  Antis are wearing green shirts.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Burlington City Council Votes on three gun control resolutions

                             Attack Continues of Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights
There was a huge turnout of pro-gun supporters at the Burlington City Council meeting
over four gun issues before the council.  Three of the measures passed.  But the big
ticket issue, a mandatory permit for concealed carry of firearms, failed in a 7-5 vote. 
The three that passed were: no guns in bars or restaurants, the police being able to
seize firearms at the scene of a reported crime of domestic violence and a mandatory
firearm storage ordinance.  But, the process of becoming law is far from over. 

The gun control ordinance proposals still face more review in the city.  If the three
resolutions get passed by Burlington voters.  It is then off to the Vermont Legislature
where the issues will have to survive an intensive legislative process.  For the shooting/
outdoors community is going to vigorously defend the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights

The shooting/outdoors sporting community obviously gets was not willing to accept: that
if the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights gets pried open in Burlington, then all of the
rights protected by it become targets in an open season of anti-freedoms attack.

But the city council could not have missed the fact that there were so many pro-gun people
present that the city council ordered the upstairs balcony opened to accommodate the crowd. 
The crowd wore lots of gun/hunter oriented clothing and displayed hunter orange handbills
with "NO to Burlington Gun Control" clearly visible and the crowd would wave the handbills in
support of speakers making points they supported.  It was a World Series of Gun Rights. 

The Charter Change Committee had already pulled the semi-automatic firearms and
magazine size restriction proposals out consideration by the full city council.  As the
pro-gun ranks continue to battle, the agenda of the gun control decreases.  
This is all very far from over. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Burlington Meeting Tonight, try to arrive early...

Protect our Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights tonight.
The City of Burlington meeting tonight is at city hall, at the intersection
of Church and Main Street.  The meeting starts at 6 PM but consider
getting there early to get to sit up front and speak to the city council. 
Please be polite and wear some article of clothing in hunter orange  
Being there is important, bring friends.  Numbers are important.
Before the meeting you can call city hall to voice your opinion at:
802-865-7272 or 802-865-7000 and say NO to Burlington Gun Control.

You can also E-mail to the E-mail addresses listed below and say:
NO to Burlington Gun Control:

Friday, October 18, 2013

No Burlington Gun Control! (Please pass this along to freedom loving friends)

The Burlington City Council public hearing on its proposed gun control ordinance
is 6 PM on Monday. Just three days away. It is at 6 P.M. at Burlington City Hall.

The city council and the mayor are still proposing a gun control ordinance that
would slice and dice our Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights If the city gets away
with enacting its ordinance it will do so by opening a legal gate by which towns &
cities all over the state will be able to pursue enacting gun ban laws, they will be
able to strictly regulate shooting, ranges, hunting, fishing and trapping.

To voice your opposition to Burlington bringing about the enacting of NYC-type gun
laws in Vermont you can E-mail the mayor and the city council at the E-mails listed
down below. You can also call Burlington City Hall at 802-865-7272 or 865-7000 and say:
                                                   No Burlington Gun Control! 
Want to send an email to all city councilors , the Mayor, the Chief of Staff and Chief Administrator?
Take the following, highlight it all, right-click on the highlighted portion, click copy, then start an email and right click on the "to:" then click paste.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rights of ALL Vermont Gun Owners Rights Are Under Serious Threat (take a look)

The Burlington City Council is still moving forward with efforts to restrict gun ownership and possession on the local level.
This matters to EVERY hunter and shooter anywhere in Vermont, and here's why:
For Burlington to enact local gun regulations, they will need to get the Legislature to gut the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill Of Rights, which has been been the law since 1988, and that prevents local governments around the State from enacting a crazy patchwork of conflicting and burdensome restrictions
or bans on ownership and possession of guns.  This law, also protects ammunition, shooting, ranges, reloading, hunting, fishing and trapping
If Burlington succeeds in having the Legislature gut the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights, you can be darn sure that it will not be the last local government to move forward to discriminate against and burden law abiding gun owners.
And you can be even more sure that whatever types of guns Burlington and other local governments try to restrict now WILL expand to become ever more onerous and biased in the future once they've blown a hole in our best protection for gun owners and outdoors people.
If there ever was a time to rally and turn out to defend your Second Amendment rights, and the Vermont Sportsmen' Bill of Rights, this is it.
The Hearing on Burlington's proposed bans is Monday October 21 at 6:00 PM at Burlington City Hall. (Intersection of Church & Main Streets)
Show up as if YOUR ability to continue to own the guns  of your choice, anywhere in Vermont, depends on it, because it DOES.
Hunter Orange is very visible to the public and identifies our crowd in media photos.  Our folks do their best being polite and well spoken. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Federation Advisory Notice to the City of Burlington

PO Box 225, Lyndonville, VT 05851
To:          Miro Weinberger, Mayor - City of Burlington
                All Personnel in City Attorney's Office, City of Burlington
                All City Council Members, City of Burlington
                City Management Personnel, City of Burlington
                William Ellis Esq., McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan
Date:     October 11th, 2013
RE:          Notice to the City of Burlington
Mr. Rusten,
The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs notes that the Burlington Free Press has reported that the Charter Change Committee of the Burlington City Council has retained a five issue agenda for which the city does not have the authority to enact per VSA 24 § 2295, the law commonly called the Vermont Sportsmen's Bill of Rights.  A specific review of the last sentence of said section is quite revealing:  "The provisions of this section shall supersede any inconsistent provisions of a municipal charter."
In addition, this reported agenda has issues involving banning or requiring a permit to regulate the carrying of firearms.  These regulations would be in conflict with the Vermont Supreme Court decision in the case of State v. Rosenthal.  Said case being "on point" with regard to those ordinances the city seeks to enact.
There are those who would argue that the rights of Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution are not unlimited per State v. Duranleau(1969).  Against this, we note that this case upheld VSA 10 § 4705(b), a statue that bars possessing a loaded rifle and shotgun in a motorized vehicle within the right of way of a public highway.  Title 10 laws however are fish and wildlife laws.  The statute was enacted to deter the illegal taking of wildlife by shooting from a vehicle and the statute specifically exempted loaded handguns, clearly so as to allow having a loaded firearm for personal defense.
There is more than sufficient legal precedent and statutory authority on this subject for the city to know that the city is undertaking an action that the ordinance authority it seeks is beyond its legal reach.  Therefore, the Federation urges the city to reconsider its publicly announced proposed course of action. 

If the city does continue forward with the agenda as what was reported in the Burlington Free Press article of Wednesday October 9th, we suggest the city closely review its liability coverage with its insurance carriers. 
Evan Hughes
VP – Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Inc.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs Second FOIA request to the City of Burlinton

PO Box 225, Lyndonville, VT 05851
To:          Miro Weinberger, Mayor - City of Burlington
                All Personnel in City Attorney's Office, City of Burlington
                All City Council Members, City of Burlington
                City Management Personnel, City of Burlington
                William Ellis Esq., McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan
Date:     October 4th, 2013
RE:          Freedom of Information Request
Dear Mr. Rusten;
The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs (VFSC) is in receipt of your letter dated September 24.
As Vermont's largest local government, it would have been hoped that the City would be more familiar with, and respectful of, both the broad policy and specific details of the Vermont laws on public records.
As a preliminary matter, VFSC appoints and authorizes Evan Hughes of Barre, Vermont, who is a VFSC Vice-President, to be its representative in relation to this and future matters regarding VFSC's request for records from Burlington. There is no requirement that an organization be represented by a lawyer to make or pursue a records request, and Mr. Hughes is familiar with many aspects of law and administrative proceedings. Mr. Hughes' contact information is as follows and any and all  further correspondence or communication regarding the VFSC's record request should be directed to Mr. Hughes:
Evan Hughes
16 Millstone Blvd
Barre, VT 05641
As a second preliminary matter, VFSC is astonished at the repeated assertions in your September 24 letter that VFSC's request to inspect records is somehow "not a request" giving rise to any obligations whatsoever by the City under Vermont Statutes Title 1 Chapter 5. The only place in the law that even requires that a request be made in writing is in Section 316(c): "The agency may require that requests subject to staff time charges under this subsection be made in writing..."  It is common, and valid, for persons requesting public records under Title 1 to simply make a verbal request. A requester can never be as familiar with what records government holds as the government itself is. The decisions of the Vermont Supreme Court state over and over again that the purpose of the law is to foster responsive, transparent, and accountable government, with required receptivity to requests, and resolution of ambiguities in favor of requesters. Since a mere verbal request is sufficient, since the law is to be construed in favor of persons making record requests, and since VFSC is being clear on the subjects of interest, it is preposterous to assert, as the City has done via your letter, that no part of VFSC's September 16 request is actually really a request. The VFSC expects the City to revisit its position on this issue of "whether a request is really a request," and believes that if the City persists in maintaining that position, it will be in flagrant and deliberate violation of the spirit, purpose, and letter of the Vermont statutes on public access to records.
Your next assertion: "Please be advised that the City does not have a record that identifies and describes the documents identified in [VFSC's September 16 request]" similarly stands the purpose and requirements of the public records law on its head. It is inherent and unavoidable that a requester of records is tremendously less familiar with what records even exist, who made them, who keeps them, or what they are called, and other details, than the agency and personnel who make and keep records in their role as public servants. Public officials are responsible for being able to find and produce records that may be responsive to a records request, without a requester having to "pin the tail on the donkey, blindfolded" by crystal-balling and requesting exactly a certain record by exactly a certain name. Again, VFSC asserts that if the City persists in that position, it will be in open and deliberate violation of law.
Your letter then digresses into assertions that if VFSC wants the City to create a record that does not yet exist, the City expects VFSC to pay for the effort of doing so. VFSC acknowledges that in general a requester is only entitled to already-existing documents, but that is all that VFSC is asking for. VFSC does not agree with your assertion that any part of VFSC's request asks for the creation of new documents. The one exception is that VFSC expects the city to identify and describe items that the City may claim are exempt from examination or copying, in which case it is reasonable to expect that the City will identify and describe each of those items and why, specifically, it believes they are exempt. This is simply what is required under Section 318(a) (2): "if the custodian considers the record to be exempt from inspection under the provisions of this subchapter, the custodian shall so certify in writing. Such certification shall identify the records withheld and the basis for the denial." Compliance with that statutory requirement is not something that gives the City a basis to demand payment. Without some such particularized response, VFSC cannot know what is being withheld or on what basis, and would be unable to decide whether or to what extent VFSC may choose to pursue other measures under the public records law. Under Section 318(e), to the extent that the City asserts that some records are partially but not wholly exempt from examination or copying, the City is obligated to redact exempt portions, and only those portions, and produce the remainder of the responsive documents.
Your letter next asserts that "[g]iven the nature of our workforce your direction is unclear as to whose records are sought to be inspected" and that, supposedly, VFSC "must, therefore, clarify to which managerial staff [a request] is being directed." This, again, is an invalid attempt to make a requester of records "pin the tail on the donkey, blindfolded." A requester will never be as familiar with the structures and roles within government as the government itself is. Having to specify individuals or details of offices or roles within government would be burdensome to requesters and place requesters at risk of omitting someone, only to then have that official, alerted to the request but not yet specifically named in a request, take the liberty of destroying documents. There is no requirement in the public records law that a requester masters the intricacies of the organizational structure of a given part of government before they can validly make a request. That would be utterly at odds with the purpose of the law.
In regard to your request that VFSC limit how far back in time VFSC's request reaches, VFSC is willing to confine its request to documents created, sent, received, or modified on or after January 1, 2012.
In regard to geographic scope, VFSC does not expect the City to research laws or regulations from other places outside Vermont, except that VFSC does expect the City to provide VFSC the opportunity to examine laws or regulations, on the subjects of VFSC's request, from any location or source, that the City has already actually acquired in the time frame covered by the last paragraph up until the present. If the source of any particular document is evident in such document or related documents, VFSC expects that the information as to the source also be made available to VFSC. Without limiting the foregoing, VFSC is particularly interested in materials indicating coordination with government officials, elected, hired or appointed and the personnel or representatives of organizations involved in or advancing gun control laws or regulations.
In regard to the various electronic messages and media covered by VFSC's II(F)-(M) as to which you assert that "materials [created or received] ... by employees outside the scope of their duties are records that are not produced in the course of agency business and are, therefore, outside the scope of the PRA" the City's response is dismissively and invalidly oversimplified. If a public employee or elected or appointed official happens to use outside systems or technologies other than centralized office systems in order to communicate about actions, potential actions, goals, policies, or other substance that relate to actual or contemplated government action or their individual inclinations in relation to their role in government, then the mode of transmission or reception does not take those records outside of the scope of the public records law. By analogy/ illustration, the City's position would mean that if employees or elected or appointed officials chose to conduct portions of government business on plain paper (instead of office letterhead) that they then mailed with their own envelope and stamp, such records would somehow be exempt from the public records laws. Such a position would encourage government action by back channels. The purpose of the public records laws is to let the governed know what the government is doing, and advances in technology, and employees and officials use of technology, should enhance, and not detract, from that transparency.
Regarding the City's response to VFSC's II (Q), the point of VFSC's request is to make sure that the City is not deleting or destroying records that could relate to VFSC's request when the City may not have a valid basis to do so; this is part of being responsive and responsible in providing access to public records.
One of the City's final points is to ask that VFSC narrow its request, purportedly to "allow us both to meet the benefits, bounds, and requirements of the law." Section 318(d) says that government "may request that a person... narrow the scope of a public records request...." Government may ask, but government may not demand, nor may it fail to answer or delay or condition its response, on whether the requester actually narrows the request. To whatever extent public records requests are burdensome, court decisions make clear that the Legislature has knowingly and deliberately chosen to place the burden on government, rather than to deny, curtail, or discourage the public's access to information. See for example Judge (now Justice) Crawford's decision in VSEA v. Vt. Agency of Natural Resources, Docket 517-7-10 Wncv, January 6, 2011. In stark contrast, the earlier part of Section 318(d) makes it mandatory that government "shall consult with the person making the request in order to clarify the request or to obtain additional information that will assist the public agency in responding to the request." VFSC believes that the City's September 24 letter- starting with its claim that a request is not a request- makes no attempt to confer or help VFSC understand what records may be available, or that would otherwise allow VFSC to assist the City in responding to VFSC.
At minimum, VFSC expects the City to cease any deletion or destruction of records potentially within the scope of VFSC's request. Such preservation should have already immediately commenced upon the City's receipt of VFSC's request, as outlined in the Vermont Supreme Court's decision in Price v. Town of Fairlee "[routine or intentional record destruction] must be stayed when a public-records request for the material is filed pursuant to 1 V.S.A. § 318, and the stay must remain in effect until the request is resolved.") 2011 VT 48, paragraph 21. The City should begin to identify and provide records that squarely and clearly fall within VFSC's request and that are not exempt. It is unreasonable to withhold all records until all aspects of the request are mutually clear to both sides. Once the City begins to be responsive to VFSC on the obvious and simple, VFSC *may* be willing, having gained a better understanding of what is available, or the relative responsiveness or difficulty of accessing particular records, to refine other portions of its request.
VFSC appreciates the City's attention to these matters consistent with the spirit and purpose of the public records law, and intends to hold the City to that spirit and purpose.
Clint Gray
President - Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Inc.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Burlington says...."NO!"

The City of Burlington's response to the  Freedom Of Information Act request
is an attachment to this E-mail.  A brief summation of the city's answer is: "No!"
The city official who answered the federation FOIA did not care for the form or
content of the material sought in the federation's FOIA request.
It was the Chief Administrative Officer, not the City Attorney or the law firm the
city uses, who answered the FOIA.
The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs has been reviewing the city's 
response will be filing a second FOIA very shortly.  Vermont's FOIA statute is
very layperson friendly and the city is taking an obstructive stance on this FOIA.