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Register to attend the June 24, 2014 FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting

Use Eventbrite to register for the FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting

Use Eventbrite to register to attend the FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO HOST
AN OPEN MEETING ON JUNE 24, 2014

DATE: Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TIME OF MEETING: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

WHERE: The Archivist’s Reception Room, Room 105 in the National Archives Building

ADDRESS: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20408-0001

WHAT: The newly established Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee will host an open meeting to discuss improvements to FOIA administration, develop consensus and recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures, and solicit public comments. The meeting will focus on prioritizing the FOIA issues on which the Committee will focus. The media is welcome to attend.

WHO: Speakers will include David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, Miriam Nisbet, FOIA Advisory Committee Chair, and FOIA Advisory Committee Members.

NOTES: This meeting is open to the public. Due to space limitations and access procedures, individuals planning to attend the meeting are required to register through Eventbrite. Attendees are required to show one form of Government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license) to gain admittance. For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations, please contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) staff at 202-741-5770 or ogis@nara.gov.

FOIA Advisory Committee to Meet June 24

The FOIA Advisory Committee will be called to order on June 24, 2014. (NARA Identifier 6011299)

The FOIA Advisory Committee will be called to order on June 24, 2014. (NARA Identifier 6011299)

The first meeting of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee is scheduled for June 24, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. The meeting will be open to the public and we will provide registration information in the coming weeks.

The FOIA Advisory Committee was established in May 2014 under the second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP). The Committee’s goal is to advise on ways to improve the administration of FOIA. The Committee will study the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch and may recommend legislative action, policy changes or executive action, among other matters.

Archivist of the United States David Ferriero appointed the 20 members of the Committee last month. There are 10 members from within government and 10 non-governmental members who have considerable FOIA expertise and who were selected to achieve a balanced representation. Committee members are appointed to serve a two-year term. OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet will chair the Committee. ​

The​ ​FOIA Advisory Committee will meet up to four times per year. Stay tuned for more information about the Committee’s first meeting — we hope to see you there!

OGIS is Hiring!

We are looking for new OGIS teammates -- come join us! (NARA identifier 515313)

We are looking for new OGIS teammates — come join us! (NARA identifier 515313)

The OGIS team is expanding, adding an additional three positions to the staff at its Washington, D.C. office.

Two of the new positions will be part of OGIS’s review team, which works to review agencies’ FOIA policies, procedures and compliance. One position will carry out OGIS’s mediation services, working with agencies and requesters to prevent and resolve FOIA disputes. Interested individuals may apply online through USAJobs.

Come join the OGIS team!

Improving FOIA Regulations: We Need Your Help!

Developing a common FOIA regulation is one of the commitments of the second Open Government National Action Plan to modernize FOIA.

Agency FOIA professionals and regulatory specialists interested in what a common FOIA regulation might look like are invited to a meeting that will kick off the interagency process of developing the regulation.

The meeting is from 1 p.m. to 3 pm. Thursday May 29 at the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP), 1425 New York Ave. NW, Suite 11050 in Washington, DC, near the McPherson Square Metro stop on the Blue/Orange lines and Metro Center on the Metro’s Red Line.

To register, email your name and phone number to doj.oip.foia@usdoj.gov. Hope to see you there!

Customer Service: it’s a Smart Practice—and it’s the Law!

Providing excellent customer service makes the FOIA process run more smoothly—and it’s the law! (NARA Identifier 196402)

Providing excellent customer service makes the FOIA process run more smoothly—and it’s the law! (NARA Identifier 196402)

Our last post offers some practical tips for FOIA professionals wishing to incorporate alternative dispute resolution into the FOIA process. We picked up more good ideas later in the American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP) 7th Annual National Training Conference during a session titled “Customer Service—It’s the Law!”

The session, which included FOIA professionals Jay Olin from the National Archives and Records Administration and Kathy Ray from the Department of Transportation, focused on the role of the FOIA Public Liaison (FPL).

First, a bit of history: although FPLs are mentioned twice in the statute, as amended by the OPEN Government Act of 2007, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B)(ii) and  5 U.S.C. § 552(l), Executive Order (EO) 13392 established the FPL role in 2005. The EO mandated that FPLs “seek to ensure a service-oriented response to FOIA requests and FOIA-related inquires.”

For DOT’s Ray, that meant compiling an FPL handbook which contains, among other documents, the statute with the above-noted sections highlighted; DOT’s FOIA regulation; DOT’s Annual FOIA Report and  Chief FOIA Officer report; and a log to document the statutorily mandated work the FPL does to

  • reduce delays;
  • increase transparency and understand the status of requests; and
  • resolve disputes.

The handbook is meant to be a resource not just for FPLs, but all DOT FOIA professionals, Ray said.

Ray, Olin and several panel attendees noted the importance of educating two audiences about the FOIA process: requesters and program managers who hold the records being requested.

Finally, as we’ve written about before, plain writing contributes greatly to excellent customer service. One attendee noted that after she attended an ASAP session on plain writing a year ago, she began checking readability statistics of her FOIA program’s correspondence and tweaked accordingly. (In Microsoft Office Word, go to “Spelling & Grammar” → “Word Options” → “Show readability statistics.”)

The tool measures the percentage of passive sentences, a Flesch Reading Ease score (a 0-to-100 scale with a score of 60 to 70 indicating ease of understanding for the typical 13- to 15-year-old) and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score.

The bottom line, panelists and attendees agreed, is in written correspondence with requesters, do more than just cite an exemption: explain it and, if possible, the types of information withheld under the exemption.

Have other thoughts? Drop us a line.

(So how did we do with this blog post? Just 9 percent of our sentences are passive—not bad for writing about an event that occurred in the past (May 14). But a Flesch Reading Ease score of 43.9 isn’t great. And a grade level score of 11.7 is a bit high. Must be the statutory cites and the acronyms!)