In this week’s FOIA round-up, the Washington Post and HD Media gain access to a database that tracks opioid distribution, emails obtained through a FOIA request reveal the extent of a top Department of the Interior official’s violations of federal ethics rules, and city and court records reveal that in one Alaska town every single police officer has been convicted of domestic violence.
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Database tracking the distribution of pain pills released after a year of litigation shines light on the role of pharmaceutical companies in the opioid epidemic,
The Washington Post and HD Media obtained information from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s database that tracks opioids sold across the U.S.
The Washington Post had been trying to gain access to the database, known as the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Order System (ARCOS), since 2016 when it first filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act. That 2016 FOIA request was denied.
However, as towns and cities began suing pharmaceutical companies that distributed opioids, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster allowed drug companies and cities and towns to review the data in the ARCOS database in order to reach a settlement. Last Monday, a year after the Washington Post and HD Media attempted to gain access to documents from the litigation, Judge Polster lifted the protective order on the documents for the case.
Read the Washington Post’s initial analysis of the data here.
DOI official’s ethics violations run deeper than originally disclosed
Doug Domenech, assistant secretary in the Department of the Interior, had more extensive communications with his former employer than previously disclosed, according to documents obtained through FOIA. Domenech is currently under investigation by the DOI Inspector General for meeting with his former employer, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, to discuss official matters.
“Under federal ethics rules, and specifically the White House’s own ethics pledge, executive branch appointees are generally prohibited from participating in closed meetings or communications with former employers about various official matters for a period of two years from the date of their appointment. In meeting with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Domenech, who joined the Department of the Interior in January of 2017, appeared to violate those rules.”
Journalist Jimmy Tobias obtained new documents that reveal Domenech not only had more extensive communication with his former employer than previously disclosed, but he also helped the Texas Public Policy Foundation gain special access to DOI officials.
Read the full story from Pacific Standard here.
Many police officers in Alaska have criminal records that should prevent them from being hired, but are not, documents show
In Stebbins, Alaska, every single member of the police department has been convicted of domestic violence, according to an analysis of city and court records.
Stebbins is not alone: a joint investigation conducted by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica found that in at least 14 cities in Alaska, law enforcement officers were hired who had criminal records that should have barred them from working as police officers under Department of Public Safety regulations.
“All 42 of these tribal and city police officers have rap sheets that would prevent them from being hired by the Anchorage Police Department and its urban peers, as Alaska state troopers or even as private security guards most anywhere else in the United States,” wrote Kyle Hopkins of the Anchorage Daily News. “Many remain on the job today.”
Read the full story from the Anchorage Daily news here.
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