Monday, January 13, 2014

VFSC Public Records Request Letter of 1/13/14 to Burlington

Proudly Serving Vermont Since 1875
16 Millstone Blvd, Barre, VT 05641
To:       Bob Rusten, Chief Administrative Officer of Burlington
Date:   January 13, 2014
Re:       VFSC Freedom of Information Request
Dear Mr. Rusten,

The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs (VFSC) wants to bring the following to the attention of the City of Burlington in regard to VFSC's public record requests.
1.      During VFSC's January 9, 2014 visit to the City to examine documents that the City has continued to produce in response to VFSC's original request, VFSC's representatives detected an instance in a "chain" of 3 emails where the City had separately produced the 2nd and 3rd emails of the "chain"; however the first email was never independently produced, identified, redacted, or withheld even though it absolutely appeared to be responsive to the VFSC's request.

Upon closer examination, VFSC's representatives noted that the initial email (the one that was never independently produced) referred to the term "gun" (singular) whereas the 2nd email in the chain referenced the term "guns" (plural).  Since the text of the 2nd email was carried forward into the 3rd email, and assuming that the City had only searched for the plural word "guns", then both emails #2 and #3 would have been found, whereas email #1 would only be found if the singular form of "gun" was searched for.

VFSC's representatives brought this situation to the attention of the City's representative Scott Schrader, who, after checking, confirmed that the City has only searched for the words: "firearms", "guns", "weapons", "knives", "bows and arrows", and the singular term "assault rifle" - but not the singular terms of the aforementioned plural terms.

Given that a search for the plural form of any given search keyword will never return a document that only contains a reference to the singular form of the same keyword, the VFSC therefore brings the City's attention to the fact that the City's searches and responses to date have failed to comport with VFSC's request of September 18 2013 for "Anything relating to drafts, proposals, strategies, advantages, disadvantages, or any other consideration for or against any form of possible local or state regulation or restriction of or change in statutes relating in any way to firearms or other weapons" and as focused (without waiving the earlier and broader request) on (October 18) "firearms, accessories, ammunition and components thereof."

A requester is not responsible for checking the efficacy of the methods that a unit of government uses to find and produce records, but the government is responsible for producing records responsive to a request - and for knowing or finding what records it has that are responsive to a request.

VFSC therefore respectfully insists that the City promptly undertake intensive searches to make sure that the City immediately produces all records with substantive content matching VFSC's requests.

2.      Since it is now almost 4 months since VFSC's record request to the City, and the City has still not produced all records responsive to VFSC's initial request, VFSC does, by this paragraph, make a new, additional request for any materials of the type, nature, and subject matter covered by VFSC's September 2013 request - but that have been created, transmitted, received, or modified since VFSC's original September request. This new request does not allow the City to reset the clock on its obligations and deadlines to respond to the VFSC's original request.

3.      In the City Council's agendas, VFSC has noted that it is typical that certain "Communications" are put into the Deliberative Agenda for a City Council meeting in order to bring those communications to the attention of, and to have them formally acknowledged by, the Council. VFSC requests that the City produce any and all policies or records, formal or informal, setting or reflecting criteria for decision or discretion as to what communications are or are not included in agendas of the City Council or any committees of the City Council. If there are no guidance policies, please identify the official or officials who make such decisions.
Evan Hughes
Vice President - Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs
Miro Weinberger, Mayor, City of Burlington
Burlington City Council
Eileen Blackwood, City Attorney
Eugene Bergman, Assistant City Attorney