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FOIA News: GSA political appointee delayed FOIA requests

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Obama Appointee Hid Details From Media On Extravagant Gov’t Conference

By Luke Rosiak, The Daily Caller, Sept. 29, 2016

One of President Barack Obama’s political appointees delayed release of embarrassing information related to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) infamous champagne-soaked employee “team-building” conference in Las Vegas in 2012, according to a newly released report by the agency’s Inspector General.

The withheld information included emails about massive employee bonuses, and videos, including one where GSA employees pretended to be monkeys. The agency punished the employee who told people that the videos were wasteful was demoted to GSA’s daycare center after speaking out.

Officials then invoked a false legal justification to stonewall a public information request for the videos for more than a year.

The usual process in federal agencies is to have a team of trained career civil servants handling Freedom of Information Act responses. But at GSA, a single political appointee, Special Adviser Bianca Oden reviewed all FOIA requests from journalists after career employees completed their redactions.

And on several of the most politically sensitive requests, she appeared to let them sit on her desk for nearly a year without taking any actions. The politicized control of the FOIAs began soon after GSA was embarrassed by reports on its wildly lavish conference, for which a GSA manager later went to jail.

Read more here.