Tennessee Collections Preservation Center (NPS)

Donald Triplett III filed this request with the National Park Service of the United States of America.
Tracking # NPS-2016-00158
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Donald Triplett III

To Whom It May Concern:

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

Any/all indexes of the archival records and of the artifacts that will be transferred to and/or stored at the Collections Preservation Center, located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, TN.

(A press release about the groundbreaking of the center can be found here: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/news/npscpcgroundbreaking.htm)

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

I request a waiver of all fees related to the processing of this request, as the information being requested will shed light on the operations and activities of the government, is not being made for commercial purposes, and will contribute significantly to the public understanding of those operations and activities through dissemination of the information provided to a "...reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject." (Cause of Action vs FTC, NO. 13-5335, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals)

In the event that fees cannot be waived, 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,

Donald Triplett III

From: Wilson, Charis

Hi Marianne,

I am routing this request to you for processing. Let me know if it turns
out another office needs to search for responsive records.

As usual I've cc'd the requester so they know who will be handling their
request.

Thanks,

C.
____________________
Ms. Charis Wilson, Ph,D., CRM
NPS FOIA Officer
12795 W. Alameda Parkway
PO Box 25287
Denver, CO 80225-0287
303-969-2959
Fax: 303-969-2557
1-855-NPS-FOIA

"What we find changes who we become." - Peter Morville

"The historian works with records...there is no substitute for records: no
records, no history." - Paraphrasing Langlois & Seignobos (1903)

"Let us be guardians, not gardeners" - Unknown, From 1963 Living Wilderness
editorial - Attributed to Adolph Murie

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <requests@muckrock.com>
Date: Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 10:25 AM
Subject: Freedom of Information Request: Tennessee Collections Preservation
Center (NPS)
To: Charis_Wilson@nps.gov

November 19, 2015
National Park Service
Charis Wilson
12795 W. Alameda Parkway
P.O. Box 25287
Denver, CO 80225

To Whom It May Concern:

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

Any/all indexes of the archival records and of the artifacts that will be
transferred to and/or stored at the Collections Preservation Center,
located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend,
TN.

(A press release about the groundbreaking of the center can be found here:
http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/news/npscpcgroundbreaking.htm)

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

I request a waiver of all fees related to the processing of this request,
as the information being requested will shed light on the operations and
activities of the government, is not being made for commercial purposes,
and will contribute significantly to the public understanding of those
operations and activities through dissemination of the information provided
to a "...reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject."
(Cause of Action vs FTC, NO. 13-5335, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals)

In the event that fees cannot be waived, 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,

Donald Triplett III

Filed via MuckRock.com
E-mail (Preferred): requests@muckrock.com

For mailed responses, please address (see note):
MuckRock
DEPT MR 22299
PO Box 55819
Boston, MA 02205-5819

PLEASE NOTE: This request is not filed by a MuckRock staff member, but is
being sent through MuckRock by the above in order to better track, share,
and manage public records requests. Also note that improperly addressed
(i.e., with the requester's name rather than "MuckRock News" and the
department number) requests might be returned as undeliverable.

From: Mills, Marianne

This acknowledges receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request
for records pertaining to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Your request
has been assigned Tracking Number NPS-2016-00158. Please refer to this
tracking number on all correspondence regarding your request. Specifically,
you have requested:

*Any/all indexes of the archival records and of the artifacts that will be
transferred to and/or stored at the Collections Preservation Center,
located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend,
TN.*

It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to: (1) make records of
the NPS available to the public to the greatest extent possible in keeping
with the spirit of FOIA; (2) make available documents requested under the
FOIA at the earliest possible date while, at the same time, protecting the
rights of the individuals involved and the administrative processes
surrounding such rights; (3) withhold documents falling within one of the
FOIA exemptions only if disclosure is prohibited by statute or Executive
Order, or in those cases where the agency reasonably foresees that
disclosure would be harmful to an interest protected by exemption or other
sound grounds exist for invoking an exemption.

Your request is being processed under the provisions of the Freedom of
Information Act (5 United States Code 552 as amended by Public Law 104-231,
11 Stat. 3048); United States Department of the interior implementing
regulations found at 43 Code of Federal Regulations, PUBLIC LANDS: INTERIOR
beginning part 2, Subparts A through E (see Federal Register of October 21,
2002, Volume 6-7, NO. 203, page 64527), and the Privacy Act of 1974 (Public
Law 93-579). Additional FOIA and Privacy Act guidance may also be found
through the Department of the Interior’s website, http://www.doi/gov or the
U.S <http://www.doi/gov%20or%20the%20U.S>. Department of Justice site,
http:/www/usdoj.gov.

Your request for a fee waiver is under review.

Marianne M. Mills
Park Ranger (Volunteers, NextGen Engagement)
Regional FOIA and Privacy Act Officer

Southeast Region, NPS
100 Alabama Street SW
1924 Building
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 507-5613
(404) 562-3263 FAX
marianne_mills@nps.gov
******************************************************
*I found my park in 1984. (It's Isle Royale) Have you found yours yet*?

From: Mills, Marianne

Mr. Triplett:

This is in response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request,
assigned Tracking Number NPS-2016-00158. You have requested the following
records:

*Any/all indexes of the archival records and of the artifacts that will be
transferred to and/or stored at the Collections Preservation Center,
located adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend,
TN.*

Your request for records also included a request for a statutory fee
waiver. In accordance with 43 CFR 2.45(a)(1) the National Park Service
will grant a fee waiver when disclosing the information is:

1. In the public interest because it is likely to contribute
significantly to public understanding of government operations or
activities, and

2. Not primarily in your commercial interest.

In determining whether your request is in the public interest, the National
Park Service considered the following criteria:

(1) How the records concern the operations or activities of the Federal
government,

(2) How disclosure is likely to contribute to public understanding of those
operations or activities,

(3) How disclosure is likely to significantly contribute to the
understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the
subject, as opposed to your individual understanding, and

(4) How the public's understanding of the subject in question will be
enhanced to a significant extent by the disclosure.

The records you have requested relate to the processing of FOIA requests by
National Park Service employees. Accordingly, your request meets the first
public interest criterion.

In your request, you failed to provide information documenting that you
have the skills or abilities to analyze or disseminate the requested
information in such a manner so as to be informative to a reasonably broad
audience. Additionally, while you state that releasing this information to
you would contribute significantly to the public understanding of the
operations of the National Park Service, particularly Great Smoky Mountains
National Park, through dissemination of the information provided, you
failed to provide any specifics as to how the information you are
requesting would be distributed. We are therefore unable to determine how
the release of this information to you would be likely to contribute to the
public’s understanding of the operations or activities of the National Park
Service rather than your personal understanding. Accordingly, your request
fails to meet the second criterion.

Your request for a fee waiver request also failed to address whether and to
what degree the information you are requesting has been previously
released. It is therefore unclear how releasing the information you have
requested would significantly contribute to the understanding of a
reasonably broad audience of persons, as opposed to your own
understanding. Accordingly, your request fails to meet the third
criterion.

For similar reasons, you request also fails to meet the fourth criterion.
We have no information indicating that releasing the information would not
be primarily in your commercial interest.

In order to grant a fee waiver, the applicant’s request must meet all of
the requirements listed above. Because your request fails to meet all four
criteria, your request for a fee waiver is denied.

Pursuant to regulation, 43 CFR 2.47 the following person is responsible for
this decision:

Marianne Mills

NPS Southeast Region, FOIA Officer

Additionally, the following attorney was consulted during the preparation
of this response:

Brigette Beaton, Attorney Advisor

Office of the Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior

Atlanta, Georgia

The records you have requested reside in multiple parks so the estimate is
based on their separate estimates to search for responsive records: Great
Smoky Mountains National Park, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big
South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National
Historical Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic Riverway.

Our initial estimate of the cost to process your FOIA request is $316.50,
calculated as follows:

The estimated cost of your request is:

Professional staff 7 hrs x
$42.00/hr = $ 294.00

Duplication of 150 pages x .15/page
= $ 22.50

Because you are an individual, non-commercial requester, you will receive
two hours of 2 staff time at no cost ($2 hours@$42/hr) [this is the lowest
salaried category] and 100 pages duplicated at no cost to you. You have not
been charged for employee time to review the records for release. This
reduces your fee to $217.50.

Because this amount is less than $250.00, in accordance with 43 CFR
2.50(a), we will not require you to submit payment for your FOIA processing
fees until we complete your request. When we complete the request, you will
be responsible for submitting payment of $217.50.

Please note that it is possible that the cost to process your request could
exceed the total estimated above. If this occurs, we will stop processing
your request. We will then notify you of the higher amount and ask that you
provide written assurance of payment of the higher amount before we resume
processing your request.

It is also possible that the cost could be less than our estimate. In that
event, we will provide you a refund after completing our response.

If you would like to modify the scope of your request to determine if that
will reduce your fee estimate, please do so within 10 days of the date of
this email.

In accordance with the Department’s FOIA regulations (43 CFR 2.189(c),
2.18(d), and 2.12(b)), we will not begin processing your request until
payment is received. If we do not hear from you within 20 workdays of the
date of this email, we will assume you are no longer interested in this
matter and will close the file on your request.

If you have any questions, please contact name at Southeast Region FOIA
Officer Marianne Mills at Marianne_mills@nps.gov Thank you for contacting
the National Park Service.

Marianne M. Mills
Park Ranger (Volunteers, NextGen Engagement)
Regional FOIA and Privacy Act Officer

Southeast Region, NPS
100 Alabama Street SW
1924 Building
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 507-5613
(404) 562-3263 FAX
marianne_mills@nps.gov

From: Donald Triplett III

Dear Ms. Mills:

Thank you for your reply.

Your denial of my fee waiver does not surprise me, as it seems to be routine for my fee waivers to be denied with the NPS, despite other agencies approving them. The exuberantly high fee estimate given by the NPS also does not surprise me, as it seems that the NPS is trying to discourage me from filing requests. Nonetheless, I'd like to address a point in your email.

In one paragraph, you state that payment of the $217, as it is under $250, is not required until the request has completed processing. In another paragraph, you state that you will not begin processing my request until payment is received, which must be received within 20 workdays. Which one is it?

Sincerely,
Donald Triplett, III

From: Donald Triplett III

February 5, 2016

Freedom of Information Act Appeals Officer
Office of the Solicitor
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
MS-6556-MIB
Washington, D.C. 20240

FOIA.Appeals@sol.doi.gov
Via E-mail

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION APPEAL

To Whom It May Concern:

This is an appeal of the fee waiver denial, fee estimate, and procedural deficiency with regards to the processing of request NPS-2016-158. This appeal is being timely made within the prescribed 30 working day time period, excluding federal holidays, pursuant to 43 CFR 2.58(a) and 43 CFR 2.58(b).

I first question whether the search time is calculated in error, as I feel that seven hours is an excessive amount of time to search for indexes of archival records or artifacts that will be transferred to the Collections Preservation Center (“Center”) in Townsend, TN. If indexes of these records do exist, it would not take each of the Parks searched over an hour (billed at $42 an hour) to locate them. In addition, the number of pages estimated to be responsive to my request totals only 150 pages; according to the estimated time, this equates to almost three minutes of search time for each page, which is a tad excessive as there probably are only a few multi-page documents. Furthermore, a sampling of the records which will be transferred to the Center has already been outlined and included in a National Park Service (NPS) press release on the groundbreaking of the Center, as well as an estimate on the number of records and artifacts which will be transferred. (See http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/news/conservation-center-timeline.htm)

As to the fee waiver denial, the letter I electronically received from Marianne Mills is very similar to a fee waiver denial in a separate request written by Charis Wilson (in NPS-2016-00142) for a completely different set of documents. So similar, in fact, both denials include the following: “The records you have requested relate to the processing of FOIA requests by National Park Service employees. Accordingly, your request meets the first public interest criterion.”

This is interesting, as this request for copies of indexes of records being transferred to a Center in Tennessee has absolutely nothing to do with the processing of FOIA requests by NPS employees. Of course, my request (NPS-2016-00142) regarding copies of FOIA fee-related decisions would relate to the processing of FOIA requests, which is why the sentence made since in that denial. This is clear proof that my fee-waiver requests are not decided on a case-by-case basis, but rather, a unilateral decision has been made to deny all of my fee waivers regardless of the subject matter or the context in which they are requested.

In addition, as a result to the obvious copy-paste-tweaking of my previous fee waiver denial to somewhat fit this request, I have been left scratching my head to determine whether my request is currently being processed or not. In my original request letter, I requested that, if my fee waiver were to be denied, I be informed of the charges in advance of my request being filled.

My request for this advance notice, however, seems to have been ignored. One paragraph of the letter states that as the fee estimate totaled less than $250 following the credit for 100 free pages and 2 free hours of search time, according to 43 CFR 2.50(a), the processing of my request is ongoing according to the letter. On the other hand, the letter also includes a paragraph stating that, “In accordance with the Department’s FOIA regulations (43 CFR 2.189(c),2.18(d), and 2.12(b)), we will not begin processing your request until payment is received.”

It would seem as though the 20 working-day period in which to process my request has been suspended pending payment of the processing fee, however, this is not the purpose for the regulations which were cited. The 20-day period can only be suspended if there are questions to be resolved to make a fee determination, which there were not, or in the event that the estimated fee totals over $250, which it does not. (See 43 CFR 2.50, 2.51.) Furthermore, under 43 CFR 2.49(b), I should have been asked to provide a written assurance of payment, and I was not asked to provide any written assurance.

As a result of the NPS failing to properly abide by the regulations resulting to the suspension of the time period and notification of anticipated fees, the 20-day period has not been properly suspended and has now expired prior to the NPS releasing the documents responsive to this request. Regardless of my fee classification or outcome of my requested fee waiver, the NPS is prohibited by FOIA and its regulations from charging any fees.

The continued utilization of the fee system to deny my access to records under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Park Service is discriminatory, arbitrary, and capricious. For the reasons outlined above, I request that this appeal be granted, and that a determination be made that the National Park Service has waived the right to collect processing fees in this request. I further request that the National Park Service be strongly encouraged to abide by its own regulations in future requests. Finally, I request that this appeal be acknowledged within the 20-day statutory time limit required by FOIA and NPS regulations, and I be given a tracking number and kept updated throughout the time my appeal is decided.

Sincerely,

Donald G. Triplett, III

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