FOIA March Madness 2018 - Agency Talking Points (November 8, 2016 - March 13, 2018) (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 #

18-FI-HQ-01106

Multi Request FOIA March Madness 2018 - Agency Talking Points (November 8, 2016 - March 13, 2018)
Est. Completion None
Status
Fix Required
Tags

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:

For the 16-month, 5-day period from Tuesday, November 8, 2016 through Tuesday, March 13, 2018:

(SUMMARY)

Any and all talking points and similar memorandums, emails, and transcripts providing advice or direction on how to handle the media, media interviews, and statements.

----
(SPECIFICALLY)

Please include in your responsive materials any documents, emails, or communications with the following phrases in the title or subject line:

TALKING POINTS
STMT
STATEMENT
PRESS STRATEGY
___________

It would be greatly appreciated if materials could be provided on a rolling basis.

1. In the Office of Public Affairs or equivalent division

Please provide first all such materials produced in this agency’s Office of Public Affairs or equivalent division, and any representative thereof.

Please also provide all such materials received by this agency’s Office of Public Affairs or equivalent division, and any representative thereof.

2. Related to all agency employees

Please also include all employee email communications containing the following phrases:

TALKING POINTS
STMT
STATEMENT
PRESS STRATEGY

Alternative Response to 2:

If processing of this portion of this request would require its distribution to another or multiple other offices, it would be greatly appreciated if a response to this request would contain a description of the necessary offices to be tasked, the process by which the search will be conducted, and an estimate of the time and fees to be incurred. Such a description will allow us to better understand the parameters of this FOIA office’s ability to respond to this request as worded and will better enable us to reorganize and limit it as appropriate.

-----

Additional clarification:

This request is not intended for materials regarding one particular subject or event during this period.

If a different search procedure will be required dependent on segment of time covered, it would be greatly appreciated if a response could contain a description of the necessary difference in approach by time period (for example, if file keeping procedures have changed at some point in the last year and a half or if particular materials have been moved to another location).
_________

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: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Ms. Lipton,
Attached, please find a letter acknowledging the Department of Housing and Urban Development's receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, 18-FI-HQ-01106.  Please be advised that we will need additional clarification before we are able to proceed with processing your request.
In your request, you ask for talking points and similar memoranda, emails, and transcripts providing advice or direction on how to handle the media, media interviews, and statements.  Specifically, you ask for such records from the Office of Public Affairs, and then for all HUD employee's emails containing a list of phrases.
Please be advised that, in order to search for specific types of communications, we need to know which custodians' communications to search.  Specifically for email searches, we are unable to run a search agency-wide for particular phrases or types of messages.  Rather, we utilize a system that requires us to input, at minimum, the name of a custodian and the date range.  While you have provided a date range of 11/8/16 - 3/13/18, you have not provided any custodians for us to search the records of.  At your earliest convenience, please let me know if you can provide any specific custodians, whose email records I can run a search of.  Otherwise, our search may be limited to only memoranda and associated documents.
You can email me, or call my direct line at 202-402-3450.
Best,
Ethan G. Bodell
Government Information Specialist
Office of the Executive Secretariat

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Mr. Bodell,

Thank you so much for your message.

Would it be possible to get an estimate if I were to limit the first part of the request to the following individuals?

Amy Thompson
Jereon Brown
Charles Cowan
Raphael Williams
Caitlin Thompson
William Gribbin

I know that it is a bit outside the scope of the initial request, but do you happen to have an organizational map of the agency that would have the number of employees in the various offices? I'm wondering whether such an agency-wide search would have to be done in each individual office or whether, theoretically, your office could conduct such a search but would need the name of each employee.

Thank you so, so much for your help and patience. I'm looking forward to moving forward.

Best,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Ms. Lipton,

Thank you for your response. I have updated the request to include the names of the Public Affairs employees you provided. The estimated completion date will likely be about 6 months from now. Our eDiscovery system is currently scheduling data pulls in August. That is an initial data pull that collects all communications and electronic documents of a particular custodian during a specified time period. I.e. this will collect every single item for Amy Thompson between 11/8/16 and 3/13/18, every single item for Jereon Brown between 11/8/16 and 3/13/18, and so on. Once that data has been collected, we will then have the eDiscovery team initiate a keyword search, to limit the scope of those mass results to only those containing the search terms you provided. This process will take another several weeks. Once the keyword search phase has been completed, we will be sent any responsive documents. At that point, we will begin our review to determine if any FOIA exemptions apply and what materials are responsive and releasable. Upon completion of our review, we submit the package to the Office of General Counsel for legal clearance. Once cleared, the package goes to the Branch Chief for final review and signature. It is then sent back to me for final release to you. As the very first step of this process would not occur until August, the entire process may put us near the end of the calendar year by the time we are able to make a release.

To your second point, I do not have an organizational map that shows the number of employees in the various program offices of the Department. The best that I could provide is an organizational chart of the agency’s leadership available on HUD’s website. Our office is capable of running a search for the records of any employee of the agency, provided we have that employee’s name. We cannot search for an entire program office or the entire agency. We also cannot task this out to different offices and except them to fulfill the request, if we can’t give them anything more specific. Ideally, if you can provide us with names, like you did for item 1, we can initiate a search for those employee’s records.

Ethan G. Bodell, Esq.
Government Information Specialist
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of the Executive Secretariat
FOIA Branch, Room 10139
(202) 402-3450 | ethan.g.bodell@hud.gov

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Mr. Bodell,

Thank you so much for your thorough response. Would six months be the estimated time regardless of the number of individuals , or would there be some effect if there were fewer files to be searched?

Thanks so much,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Ms. Lipton,

The search time will be roughly the same (save for an extra day or two) regardless of the number of custodians searched. The eDiscovery search utilizes an automated data pull that is scheduled based on the current backlog and when the request is submitted. Searches are currently being scheduled several months out, and the number of custodians will not alter the date on which the search will begin. It may slightly affect the end date (if the number of custodians exceeds the daily search limit), but not by much. Long story short, any search – for one custodian or twenty – will take a long time.
-Ethan

From: Beryl Lipton

Hi Ethan,

Thank you so much for letting me know. I'll plan on sitting in the queue with the request as is, and I'll let you know if anything changes.

Thanks so much for your help.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Ms. Lipton,

Thank you for reaching out regarding your FOIA request, 18-FI-HQ-01106. This request was submitted for an electronic discovery search for the named employees in early April, but the data pull has not yet occurred at this time. Due to an influx of cases in litigation, our scheduling timelines have been pushed back. Because we utilize the same system to pull FOIA records that is used to produce documents for litigation, any time a new litigation matter arises that requires eDiscovery, the FOIA cases are pushed back. Thus, this submission has not yet been assigned a collection date, as no scheduling slots are currently available. As slots begin to open up, FOIA cases will be scheduled in those slots, and we can let you know of the date on which your request has been scheduled.
Best,

Ethan G. Bodell, Esq.
Government Information Specialist
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of the Executive Secretariat
FOIA Branch, Room 10139
(202) 402-3450 | ethan.g.bodell@hud.gov

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Mr. Bodell,

Thank you so much for this update. I'll be sure to follow up on this in the near future.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Ms. Lipton,

Just as an update, the eDiscovery search was completed today. I just submitted the keyword search to limit the results to those containing any of the terms provided. Once the keyword search has been run, any responsive results will be delivered to me for review.
Best,

Ethan Bodell

From: Beryl Lipton

Mr. Bodell,

Thank you so much for this update. I really appreciate it.

Hope you're well,
Beryl

From: Department of Housing and Urban Development

Ms. Lipton,

You’re quite welcome! The biggest impediment in this process is that our eDiscovery tool is run by an outside company, and we use the same system for FOIAs and for cases in litigation. Litigation always takes precedent, and thus FOIA requests continually get bumped back in the queue, creating (unfortunately) long turnaround times for email-based requests. I read the article on your website about the SEC and how they have the capability to search emails agency-wide, rather than being strictly custodian-based like we are. I’m so jealous!

Ethan G. Bodell, Esq.
Government Information Specialist
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of the Executive Secretariat
FOIA Branch, Room 10139
(202) 402-3450 | ethan.g.bodell@hud.gov

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