Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Burlington Response Letter 12/31, VFSC Reply to BTV

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To:       Bob Rusten, Chief Administrative Officer of Burlington
            Miro Weinberger, Mayor, City of Burlington
Date:   January 8, 2014
Re:       VFSC Freedom of Information Request (Response to Letter of December 31)
Dear Mr. Rusten,

In response to your letter of December 31, let us be clear on a few points.
You did not relate until an E-mail sent at 4:58 PM of December 30 that City was anything more than "likely" to meet the city's self-imposed deadline of the end of the year.

In addition, very recently the City provided the federation with a file, sent via email, which was empty of the pertinent emails it was supposed to have contained. 
On Monday 12/23, the City provided a letter from the mayor and a log of 117 documents previously withheld from the federation, which related that the city had changed its position on 25 documents.  We were told by Scott Schrader that the now released, formerly withheld documents would be in "Ok to inspect 13" file on the City's laptop computer.
In cross-referencing the contents of that file with the log of withheld documents, Chris and I discovered that only 3 of the documents cited in the mayor's letter were in the file.  We pointed out the problem of the missing documents to Scott and waited patiently for the production of same.  We received the documents just minutes before the end of business hours of city hall.
Upon further inspection however, we were still missing one of the 25 documents that had been released, and we were further told that the document with an ID of 83 in the exemption log, which had been updated to show as "Disclose", the City had just barely reversed themselves on – and opted to continue to withhold it – even though it had already been released previously?
Given the late notice that the city would have in fact completed the review for release of the previously withheld documents, a lack of answer to my last E-mail of December 30, and the recent practice of the City to failing to provide all of what it had said was being made available:  The Federation believes we are being more than reasonable and we question why it is up to us to determine when the City has in fact given all that it said it did.
Had the city undertaken the compiling of public records in a timelier manner, for example not waiting approximately a month before notifying your City Councilors in writing that they really did need to comply with our Freedom of Information Request, this all could have been accomplished and made available to us well before December 31st.
Finally, we would like to respond to your "answers" in the last paragraph of your letter.  Firstly, and in response to our polite inquiry of the Public hearing schedule for the proposed Charter Changes, you indicated that the "time and place" of the upcoming Charter Change Committee meetings of January 17th (*not* the 7th as shown in your letter) and the 27th are posted on the City's website.  After examining the main page and consulting with "Meeting Calendar" link, we note you are correct.  However, when a hapless citizen goes to "Agendas & Minutes" from the Burlington Home Page, one is taken to a "Public Meetings" page.  If you then click "Mayor & City Council", then click "City Council", then click "Meeting Schedule" you are taken to this link:
While we agree that the date, time and place of the Hearing for January 7th *IS* properly shown on the above referenced page, we note that the date of January 27th does *NOT* show a time, and further seems to be flagged with an "A" code, which seems to indicate "Adjourned" according to the key at the top of the page.  This is then cited as providing accurate information?
Secondly, we asked about the status of the minutes of the Charter Change Committee from December 11th, which were not posted to the web as of December 31st.  Much like our initial letter of September 19th 2013, which was sent under a subject of "Freedom of Information Request (FOIR)" and which the City somehow immediately disregarded as not being a "request" at all; so it would appear that we want to play the same game with the minutes of December 31st.  Fortunately, they have now been posted (I believe only as of yesterday – with a convenient "NEW" tag), so we will get them ourselves without bothering to ask the City for them again.
Evan Hughes
Vice President - Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs