This week’s FOIA roundup: Destroyed records in Chattanooga and which public officials also say, “Ugh ugh”

This week’s FOIA roundup: Destroyed records in Chattanooga and which public officials also say, “Ugh ugh”

The week in transparency and accountability battles, threats, and wins

Written by
Edited by Sarah Alvarez

Every week, MuckRock brings to you this roundup of transparency and accountability battles, threats and wins. Have you recently read a news story about why government transparency — or a lack of it — matters? Let us know, and we could include it in our next roundup!

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FOIA finds

Ever heard President Trump insult someone he appointed and wondered, “how do these agencies react to public attacks… by their own boss? What is that water cooler convo like?”

After Trump tweeted in August, asking if the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, was more of an “enemy” than Chairman Xi, the New York Times had the same questions.

In answer to the Times’ FOIA request, the Fed released an email exchange between the communications director and vice chair, who responded to the president’s Tweet with:

“Ugh ugh.”

Ongoing battles

The Chattanooga Free Press is fighting for records they just found out were all but destroyed. The runaround is a dance a lot of us public record-chasers are familiar with:

First, the Hamilton County Attorney’s Office claimed the records were “privileged” and therefore “off limits,” according to the paper. Then, the office charged the Free Press over $750 to “inspect records” — a fee they don’t have a right to charge under Tennessee law.

But then: after the paper declined to pay, the office went to the Hamilton County Public Records Commission for permission to up and delete them. As in for good… forever.

The Free Press is looking for anyone else who filed an open records request with the county between Aug. 2018 and Aug. 2019. Hit them up via email or phone (423)757-6416.

Developing Stories

Bloomberg published a feature on the Amazon HQ2 bidding wars and all the wrong turns taken by what they describe as a campaign driven by Jess Bezos’s hubris and a team vying for his approval.

If you remember, government officials were really putting their backs into these campaigns, offering everything from multi-million tax breaks to public land. And now, Bloomberg reports some state legislators are trying to write pacts to prevent this kind of tax-funded buttering-up feuds over private companies.

What we don’t yet fully understand is just how far some cities and states were willing to offer in exchange for Amazon’s second headquarters. That’s why we, along with Muckrock users, have been submitting requests for governments’ bids for HQ2. Check out one of our requests or submit your own.

The impeachment hearing is over but the fight to release the Ukraine emails is not. The Office of Management and Budget has had to release (heavily redacted) emails to the Center for Public Integrity about how they handled the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine. Most of what was in those documents, still secret.

Share your support for a full release of these documents by signing on with us and the Center for Public Integrity.

Just for fun

Because the best accountability work starts with asking for what the people want.

Read a great FOIA-based news story we should highlight? Let us know and maybe we can include it in our next round-up! Send it over via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook.