FOR RELEASE: June 14, 2016
CONTACT: Don Padou, 202-664-4395, Linwood Norman, 804-837-0737
Court of Appeals Orders Council to Produce Records Related to Development of McMillan Park
WASHINGTON, DC — In a decision that will have far reaching effects for transparency in the District of Columbia, the Court of Appeals, on June 9, 2016, handed down a decision ordering the Council of the District of Columbia to hand over records related to the proposed development of McMillan Park. The Council had claimed that the records were protected from disclosure by the District’s speech or debate statute. The Court disagreed.
The Court’s decision means that the Council is fully subject to the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act. The Council tried to avoid its responsibilities under FOIA by claiming that the speech or debate statute – also known as the Legislature Protection Act – provided a massive exception that allowed the Council to withhold almost any record.
The Court’s decision arose from a FOIA lawsuit brought by Kirby Vining, one of the founders of Friends of McMillan Park, against the Council.
“The public won today. It won very specifically regarding McMillan Park. This win means that the public will finally get to review the records of how councilmembers, executive agencies, and private developers worked behind closed doors, doors the Council worked very hard to keep closed, to create a sweetheart deal to destroy a historic landmark,” said Mr. Vining. “The public also won in a bigger way that will affect the District for decades to come because this win means that anyone can now get many records that the Council would have kept in the dark. This is a step toward greater transparency.”
Mr. Vining was represented by Don Padou, a lawyer who specializes in FOIA cases. The D.C. Open Government Coalition filed a friend of the court brief in support of Mr. Vining.
“Today we thank the Court for ruling on behalf of the people. This decision is yet another victory in the efforts of the Friends of McMillan Park to hold the District to abide by existing rules and regulations to revitalize McMillan Park for future generations, keeping openness and transparency in this process,” Vining said.
The Friends of McMillan Park are also appealing the Zoning Commission and Mayor’s Agents decision this national landmark from destruction.