Friday, January 31, 2014

VFSC Report #15 on Burlington Freedom of Information

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Report #15 of On-site VT Public Records Review of Burlington’s Anti-Gun Proposals
Burlington City Hall, 1/27 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM
On Monday January 27th Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (VFSC) representatives Chris Bradley and Evan Hughes were at Burlington City Hall for further review of Burlington documents and records that are responsive to the Vermont Public Records request that the VFSC originally filed on September 19th 2013.
At this meeting, the city provided two new email folders containing 8 and 719 emails respectively, along with an additional folder of 39 assorted documents.  With these email releases the Federation reports that it has now been given 6,488 emails to date (which include duplicates), or 2,955 unique emails when duplicates are removed.

In preparing to be onsite for the 27th, the VFSC purposefully scheduled this visit to coincide with the final Hearing of the City Council on their three (3) proposed anti-2nd Amendment Charter Changes.
In attempting to prepare for the City Council meeting itself, the VFSC felt that it would be beneficial to the public, and perhaps the Council itself, for the VFSC to report on the current number of documents and records which the City has either exempted or redacted.  The last time this number had been officially reported to us by the City was back on January 3rd, at which time the total number of redacted/exempted documents stood at 304.  As the VFSC is certain that this number has grown since January 3rd, and it is the VFSC’s further belief that this number has grown substantially, on Wednesday January 22nd the VFSC began to request an updated Exemption Log.
From Wednesday January 22nd to noon Monday on the January 27th, the VFSC made 4 email requests with Chief Administrative Officer Bob Rusten for the Exemption Log.  In addition, VFSC representatives had two face-to-face meetings with Mr. Rusten on the afternoon of the 27th, and in these meetings the VFSC specifically requested the Exemption Log, and the VFSC further asked that if the Exemption Log could not be produced for whatever reason that we be given a “ball park” number of Exemptions/Redactions.
Mr. Rusten would not produce the Log, with the reasons being that the “numbers were changing” and “the Log is not yet complete”. 
Let us be clear.  The “Exemption Log” as built by the City is nothing more than an Excel Spreadsheet.   This is a file format that is easily attached to an email.  Despite being given this Log several times previously, each time with the understanding that it was a work in progress and was still under development – the City failed to produce either the document, or give us a “ballpark” number, or even provide a simple comment as to whether the number had increased or decreased from January 3rd.
In point of fact:  The Log will never be complete until the search for responsive records is completed.  Given that the City was just notified by the VFSC on January 3rd that the searches they were previously using to produce records was seriously flawed, coupled with the VFSC’s belief that we have not been given any records from the corrected search to date; the VFSC expects that the Exemption Log count can only grow, and we further expect that it will grow significantly.  For obvious reasons the City would prefer to not let the general public become aware of just how many documents have been exempted from public review even though ALL of those documents and records were theoretically created by an “Open” process.

The Federation’s effort in Burlington will continue until we are satisfied that we have done more than just due diligence such that we can be fully confident that we have uncovered all there is to know and documented same.
Chris Bradley & Evan Hughes