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Council rebuffs Nickles request for more time on public records

Attorney General Peter Nickles' request for more time to respond to public requests for government information is unlikely to gain traction in the Council, where two members -- Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) -- have introduced legislation to increase access and transparency.

Nickles said the District is inundated with complex Freedom of Information Act requests and needs a "safety valve" of additional time to respond, similar to what federal law allows.

But Cheh said Nickles "is looking for an open-ended excuse not to comply, and he's not going to get it. It's a simple invitation to delay, an invitation to mischief."

Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, who is challenging Mayor Adrian Fenty in the September Democratic primary, also rejected the idea, calling the current response period "sufficient."

"What it says to me is they are not really forthcoming with the information people are requesting," Gray said.

In testimony prepared for Cheh's committee, Nickles also takes aim at her legislation to create a new independent agency designed to facilitate public requests for information.

Nickles writes that the bill is unnecessary because the Fenty administration is creating an electronic system that will make it easier to submit and track FOIA requests. Cheh's legislation, he said, would create an "unnecessarily punitive and adversarial approach that casts government agencies and their employees as villains to be punished and pursued."

By Ann Marimow  |  June 24, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
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The Fenty administration's transparency forced Deborah Nichols to take Peter Nickles to court. He and Fenty have kept witnesses from testifying. That speaks volumns about his willingness to be cooperative. There is a backlog of FOIA requests because he would cooperate. That's his own doing and the hand he dealt.

I am however taking a close look at Bowser. Is she trying to distance herself from the Fenty Circus because it's not looking so good for him right now? Interesting!

Posted by: candycane1 | June 24, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Oops! "because he would not cooperate".

Posted by: candycane1 | June 24, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

The lack of transparency exhibited by the Fenty administration is astonishing. Freedom of Information Act response deadlines need to be shortened, not lengthened. Mr. Nickes' office draws out FOIA responses by litigating such cases in a way that causes the greatest delays and costs plaintiffs the most money. He and his staff should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: DCResident22 | June 25, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

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