FOIA March Madness 2017 - II - Appeal logs, procedures, letters, opinions (Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Beryl Lipton filed this request with the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States of America.
Tracking # 17-FI-HQ-00842
Est. Completion None
Status
Fix Required

Communications

From: Beryl Lipton

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

1. Any available log of appeals submitted to this agency or the agency tasked with processing Freedom of Information Act appeals for this division. Please provide such logs for the period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016. Please, if possible, include with the log the following items:
• the request number associated with the FOIA in question
• the appeal number assigned to the appeal
• the description of the subject matter addressed by the request
• the division or office of initial receipt
• the date on which the appeal was received
• the date on which the appeal was closed
• the determination or final disposition status of the appeal

2. All appeal letters and opinion letters associated with appeals for which the determination was to reverse, in whole or in part, the decision of the initial request agency. Please provide such letters for appeals closed during the period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

3. All appeal letters and opinion letters associated with appeals for which the determination was to remand the request to the appropriate agency. Please provide such letters for appeals closed during the period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

4. All appeal letters and opinion letters associated with appeals for which the determination was to affirm the decision of the initial agency. Please provide such letters for appeals closed during the period from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2016.

5. Any instructive or guiding materials provided to and/or utilized by employees of this department’s Freedom of Information Act office. Please include any manuals, procedural materials, reference guides, checklists, training materials, flow charts, directives, memorandums, legal decisions, presentations, or similar material used in the process of an appeal by this office or the office tasked to process FOIA appeals for this office. Any guiding materials used for the preparation of an appeal package should be considered responsive to, though not the entirety of, this element of this request.

6. The name and contact information for the appropriate appeal authority to whom appeals for this agency should be directed. If such information exists as part of a template letter sent to requesters, provision of this document will be considered satisfactory.

Please provide responsive materials on a rolling basis.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

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. 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,

Beryl Lipton

From: Key, Michelle

Dear Mr. Lipton:
Attached is your acknowledgement letter.

From: Jenkins, Deidra D

Good afternoon,

I have received a response from the program office, but I still need to review those provided documents before I can prepare the response.

From: Bodell, Ethan

Attached, please find a letter acknowledging receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, 17-FI-HQ-01122.
Thank you for your interest in the Department's programs and policies.
Best,
Ethan G. Bodell, Esq.
Government Information Specialist
Office of the Executive Secretariat

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Mr. Bodell,

Thanks so much for your note. I'll look forward to hearing from you again.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Bodell, Ethan G

Ms. Lipton,

Request 17-FI-HQ-01122 has been prepared for final legal review, signature, and release.
Best,

Ethan Bodell

From: Jenkins, Deidra D

Good morning Ms. Lipton,

I am in receipt of the responsive documents and will begin review of them by Wednesday of next week.

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Ms. Jenkins,

Thanks so much for the update. I look forward to hearing from you again.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Dear Ms. Lipton,

Good afternoon. I am a FOIA specialist at HUD who has been tasked with processing your request, as reflected in your email below of April 13. I have now organized responsive search results, based on their appearing in a log and I then arranged each appeal determination letter in the order that they appear in the log. There are roughly 130 letters. All of the appeals-related information that you are seeking are reflected in the letters and the log. My reason for writing is:

Item 5 of your request:

Any instructive or guiding materials provided to and/or utilized by employees of this department’s Freedom of Information Act office. Please include any manuals, procedural materials, reference guides, checklists, training materials, flow charts, directives, memorandums, legal decisions, presentations, or similar material used in the process of an appeal by this office or the office tasked to process FOIA appeals for this office. Any guiding materials used for the preparation of an appeal package should be considered responsive to, though not the entirety of, this element of this request.
seems to going in two directions, one of which is so broad that it could gum up this package from being processed smoothly.

The first sentence seems to be especially broad, in relating to all FOIA instructional material at HUD. (Any instructive or guiding materials provided to and/or utilized by employees of this department’s Freedom of Information Act office.)

The second and third sentences seem to be limited to appeals instructional materials. (Please include any manuals, procedural materials, reference guides, checklists, training materials, flow charts, directives, memorandums, legal decisions, presentations, or similar material used in the process of an appeal by this office or the office tasked to process FOIA appeals for this office. Any guiding materials used for the preparation of an appeal package should be considered responsive to, though not the entirety of, this element of this request.)
Can you reword sentence one, if necessary, to relate more directly to sentences two and three?

Or:

It’s always possible, in case you have a question about HUD FOIA procedures, that you could check with the Office of Public Affairs after you receive your final reply letter – because chances are the questions you may be wanting to have answered could contain enough variables as to not be smoothly answered by whatever guidance material you need. In that case, might you want to consider holding off on asking HUD to fill that portion of your request until you receive the appeals log and appeals determination letters – or, perhaps, even removing that part? Removing that part (either tentatively or fully) would not preclude you from pursuing that part at a later date.
Thanks,

Howard Rosenberg
FOIA Specialist

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Dear Beryl Lipton:
Attached is your acknowledgement letter.

From: Muckrock Staff

Hello Mr. Rosenberg,

I'd like to apologize for having missed your letter of October 26. I'm specifically interested in appeals-related guiding material. Please let me know if you have any other questions or if there's anything else that I can do to help. I'm also available in the MuckRock office at 617-299-1832 should a phone call prove more convenient.

Thanks so much for all of your help.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Dear Ms. Lipton,

Good afternoon. Thanks for your reply. I can easily and gladly narrow your request to appeals-related guiding material. Would you be agreeable to having HUD create a new request? Having a crisper request will make it easier for the relevant HUD program office that will be conducting your search to not have to reconcile your original request with your narrow one. Also, I would be delighted to help you potentially word your narrower request in a way that you might feel would offer you the best chance to receive a relatively fast reply.

In your original request, this seems to be the item that you want to narrow your search to:

5. Any instructive or guiding materials provided to and/or utilized by employees of this department’s Freedom of Information Act office. Please include any manuals, procedural materials, reference guides, checklists, training materials, flow charts, directives, memorandums, legal decisions, presentations, or similar material used in the process of an appeal by this office or the office tasked to process FOIA appeals for this office. Any guiding materials used for the preparation of an appeal package should be considered responsive to, though not the entirety of, this element of this request.
Since it might be helpful to the HUD program office that would conduct such a search, do you mind if I ask whether you have made a similar request to a different federal agency or department – and received responsive search results? (Offhand, your request sounds very broad, and it’s always possible that there could be one aspect of it that might weigh down the rest of the request. The one thing that jumps out at me is to ask if you could define “instructive or guiding materials” as being items of a general nature as opposed to being, say, research that appeals specialists would perform, say, about the factual particulars of a particular case under appeal? Technically, I can imagine that anything that has ever influenced a HUD appeal decision could be considered an instructive or guiding material.
Thanks,

Howard Rosenberg
FOIA Specialist

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