So proud of he D.C. Open Government Coalition…what great work, and what a signal victory!

D.C. Councilmembers and staff cannot avoid the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by doing business on personal, rather than government, email accounts, the Council of the District of Columbia agreed today in settling a lawsuit brought by the D.C. Open Government Coalition.

The Council had previously denied the D.C. OGC’s request for government-related emails sent or received by Councilmembers from their personal email accounts. The OGC filed the suit in October challenging the Council’s position that such emails are off-limits to requesters, even if their subject matter concerns official business.

“We commend the Council for taking action to address the problem highlighted by our lawsuit,” said James A. McLaughlin, Co-chair of the OGC’s Legal Committee. “This settlement closes a potential loophole in the District’s public-records law, and it makes Council more transparent and accountable.”

The D.C. FOIA provides the public a right to access records about government activity. In response to D.C. OGC’s request, the Council initially stated that it would provide emails originating from government accounts only, but would not search Councilmembers’ private accounts. The Council has reversed that position in response to the OGC lawsuit.

The settlement states that, in response to a request, the FOIA Officer must take steps to identify and collect emails from a Council employee’s non-governmental accounts “if there is a reasonable basis to believe that some or all of the reasonably described records … are to be found” there.

Going forward, the Council adopted new rules requiring Councilmembers and their staffs to use government email accounts for government business, and if business should occur on personal email, to ensure those messages become government records. This policy mirrors Mayor Vincent Gray’s July policy directing all D.C. employees to use their government email accounts for government business.

FOI At Work: D.C. Unrivaled in Parking Ticket Revenue

The cost of gasoline may be gnawing a hole in many wallets, but the cost of going nowhere in the District cost people who failed to mind the parking meter a record $92.6 million last year.

That amount for fiscal 2011 was more than $12 million higher than the previous year, according to data that the American Automobile Association obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.

“When it comes to the sheer number of parking tickets written each day and the overall amount of parking ticket fines collected, the District of Columbia is the envy of cities large and small around the country,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA.

Townsend calculated that the District takes in an average of $370,000 in parking fines every working day of the year.

“If the city were to stack the amount of parking fines collected in single dollar bills, it would nearly reach to the average altitude that a commercial airliner flies above the surface of the Earth,” Townsend said.

The AAA logo

Image via Wikipedia

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