Tuesday, December 17, 2013

VFSC Burlington Report #9

Proudly Serving Vermont Since 1875




Report for Day #9 of On-site VT Public Record Law Review of Burlington Anti-Gun Proposals

Burlington City Hall, 12/11 9AM – 11:30AM



Chris Bradley and Evan Hughes were at the Burlington City Hall on Wednesday, December 11th for a material review session. 


The day started with a meeting between Eileen Blackwood (City Attorney) and Bob Rusten (Chief Administrative Officer) which lasted approximately 40 minutes with all parties demonstrating their professionalism. 

In this meeting, Chief Administrator Rusten indicated that they believed they have reviewed a total of approximately 5,000 documents.


Of those 5,000 documents, Mr. Rusten explained that they have produced approximately 2,400 documents (mostly emails) for our examination.  He then explained that another 1,600 documents from the 5,000 total were not produced as the City deemed them "not responsive" (meaning that they were not given to us as it was felt that they had no bearing on the Federation's Public Records Request). 


They then explained that approximately 800-900 additional documents have been set aside by the City for further review by them to ascertain whether they should be exempted, redacted or otherwise given to the Federation for review.


In considering the 800-900 documents which have been set aside for further review by the City, it must be noted that the City has already made the determination to redact or exempt 117 documents from Public Review and Inspection.  It should be further mentioned that in the trip to Burlington on 12/4, the Federation was informed by a City Official that the Federation would likely be receiving "hundreds and hundreds" more exemptions and/or redactions.  While it is purely conjecture, the Federation has reason to believe that most of the 800-900 documents will be the likely source of these additional redactions/exemptions, as these documents were already set aside at least once by the City for further internal scrutiny and consideration.


City Attorney Blackwood indicated that she would be pursuing the hiring of a person to help the City expedite the production of records, and she clearly stated that she felt the City had not been prepared at all to be responsive to the Federation's Public Records Request.  Mr. Rusten further indicated that there was still another 13,000 records to be reviewed – but that it was felt that most of these would not be responsive the Federation's Public Records Request.


As of today, December 16th, the Federation has formally appealed to Mayor Weinberger in regards to the 117 redacted or exempted documents to date.  In this letter we have requested that these documents be opened for inspection and, among other points concerning Burlington's responsiveness (or lack thereof), reminded him of his commitments to open government – which so far has been slow to be seen by the Federation.


We have additionally requested that the city return to not merely listing redacted or exempted documents, but physically provide them with appropriate sections blacked out.  We have further requested the amount of time spent by the City to date, and have now specifically asked for documents not previously provided (but requested), such as the notes kept by Charter Change Committee Chairwoman Siegal, and documents from/to Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling.