EPA Ethics Advise to Transition Staff

Sarah Emerson filed this request with the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States of America .
Tracking #

EPA-HQ-2017-007082

Status
Completed

Communications

From: Sarah Emerson

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

### BACKGROUND ###

On January 31, 2017, the EPA's Designated Agency Ethics Official Kevin Minoli responded to an inquiry from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, regarding ethics training given to EPA transition team members appointed by the Trump administration. I received a copy of both Whitehouse's letter and the EPA's response, the latter of which can be found here (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/public/view/record?objectId=090004d2812c866b) and is also attached.

In the EPA's response, Minoli stated: "Following the initial ethics briefing, the Senior Counsel for Ethics summarized the ethics advise given based upon each person's individual situation in an email, including, where necessary, any areas of potential conflict or impartiality concerns. Then, beginning the week of January 23, 2017, after the individuals became employees of the EPA, she began to formalize ethics advise to them, including instructions on seeking authorization for outside activities where necessary. For the incoming political appointees who are attorneys, the EPA has reminded them about their own obligations under their state bar rules.

### REQUEST ###

I hereby request the following records:

Copies of all written ethics advise given to Donald Trump's EPA transition team members by the Senior Counsel for Ethics. This request specifically pertains to the "summarized" and "formalized" ethics advise described in the EPA's response to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's inquiry (stated above). Please include all relevant attachments.

In order to help to determine my status to assess fees, you should know that I am a journalist writing for Motherboard, VICE's technology and science site, and that this request is being made as part of news gathering.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes. They will be used in the course of my reporting for Motherboard (www.motherboard.vice.com).

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request, and I ask that this be processed in the "media" fee category. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Sarah Emerson

From: foia_hq@epa.gov

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d2812f0e69)
* Tracking Number: EPA-HQ-2017-007082
* Requester Name: Sarah Emerson
* Date Submitted: 05/09/2017
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: Requesting copies of all written ethics advise given to Donald Trump's EPA transition team members by the Senior Counsel for Ethics.

From: Williams, LaShawn

Good Afternoon, Ms. Emerson:

This is a courtesy email to inform you that we are still working on your request. We will contact you at a later date, should we have any specific questions regarding your FOIA request.

Thank you so much for your patience. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully,
LaShawn Williams

LaShawn H. Williams
Paralegal Specialist/OGC FOIA Coordinator
Office of General Counsel
General Law Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue (MC 2377A)
Washington, D.C. 20460
(202) 564-3822 (office)
(202) 564-5432 (fax)

CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT: The information contained in this electronic message is privileged and confidential information for the use of the individual or entity named above. If you are not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately and delete the message.

From: Sarah Emerson

Thanks for letting me know, LaShawn! Appreciate it.

Best,
Sarah

From: Griffo, Shannon

Ms. Emerson,

I understand that you've asked for an update on your FOIA request, received by the U.S. EPA on May 9, 2017, in which you requested "all written ethics advise given to Donald Trump's EPA transition team members by the Senior Counsel for Ethics." We are still diligently processing your request (EPA-HQ-2017-007082). Our search for documents is mostly complete and now we are reviewing the responsive records. Please know that our ethics office has been extremely busy and short-staffed these last few months, and I've recently come on board to assist with the workload. If you'd like to further discuss your request, please don't hesitate to contact me by email or at 202-564-7061.
Thanks,
Shannon

Shannon Griffo
Ethics Attorney
Office of General Counsel, Ethics
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(202) 564-7061
Griffo.Shannon@epa.gov

From: Griffo, Shannon

Ms. Emerson,

I wanted to provide you with a more detailed update on your FOIA request EPA-HQ-2017-007082. I was hoping to give you a call to discuss your request, but I don't see a phone number listed in FOIA Online.

As I explained below, I've recently come on board to assist with the workload in the Ethics office, especially our FOIA backlog given the historic number of incoming FOIAs we are receiving. Because we have so many FOIA requests, we are using eDiscovery services to do a centralized search and collection of certain ethics related documents. Since I sent you my last update, we discovered we had to add another custodian to our search efforts. Now we are in the process of reviewing the thousands of documents produced during our search.

I'll keep you posted as we continue the review process. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me by email or at 202-564-7061 if you have any questions.
Thanks,
Shannon

Shannon Griffo
Ethics Attorney
Office of General Counsel, Ethics
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(202) 564-7061
Griffo.Shannon@epa.gov

From: Sarah Emerson

Thank you for the update, Shannon! I appreciate it. And sorry, my number is 808-554-7531. I'll just sit tight for any future updates then.

Best,
Sarah

From: Environmental Protection Agency

Hi Sarah,

I received your request for another update. However, at this time I don't have anything new to share with you. Please refer to my previous emails dated 8/31/17 and 9/27/17.
Thanks,
Shannon

Shannon Griffo
Ethics Attorney
Office of General Counsel, Ethics
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(202) 564-7061
Griffo.Shannon@epa.gov

From: Environmental Protection Agency

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for reaching out again and asking for an update regarding your FOIA Request. I'm happy to report that the Ethics Office is making progress on reviewing and releasing the documents you've requested, especially now that our General Counsel has been confirmed. We should have much better information to provide you later this month or next. Again, I thank you for your patience as our office continues to receive and respond to an unprecedented number of FOIA requests. I hope to be in touch very soon with an updated timeline for the completion of processing your request.

Thanks again,
Shannon

Shannon Griffo
Ethics Attorney
Office of General Counsel, Ethics
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(202) 564-7061
Griffo.Shannon@epa.gov

From: Environmental Protection Agency

EPA-HQ-2017-007082 has been approved for an interim release.
Records were released to the public as a result of this request. You may retrieve these records immediately using the following link: View Records.Over the next 2 hours, these records are also being added to FOIAonline's search pages, further enabling you to retrieve these documents associated with your FOIA request at any time. (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d2812f0e69)

From: Environmental Protection Agency

EPA-HQ-2017-007082 has been processed with the following final disposition: Partial Grant/Partial Denial.
Records were released to the public as a result of this request. You may retrieve these records immediately using the following link: Over the next 2 hours, these records are also being added to FOIAonline's search pages, further enabling you to retrieve these documents associated with your FOIA request at any time. View Records (https://www.foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/submissionDetails?trackingNumber=EPA-HQ-2017-007082&type=request)

  • Other-20201105144259-Final OGC letter EPA-HQ-2017-007082 signed

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