FOIA Improvement: Informing Requesters of OGIS Services

Note: Last week President Obama signed into law the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, locking many of the Administration’s openness policies and initiatives into the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including advancing open government and highlighting the importance of OGIS to the FOIA process. This blog post is the first of an occasional series in which we will update you on our plans to carry out the law, and any new policies or processes we put in place.

The recently signed FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 significantly expands the role of OGIS and FOIA Public Liaisons (FPLs) by requiring that agencies inform requesters of our availability to help resolve disputes at several points during the FOIA process. For instance, FOIA now requires that when “unusual circumstances” prevent an agency from processing a request within FOIA’s time limit, the agency must notify the requester of the availability of OGIS and the FPL to assist. The law also requires that agencies inform requesters of the availability of OGIS and FPLs to help resolve disputes if the agency makes an adverse determination during its initial processing of the request.

To assist agencies in complying with the law, we have developed the following language to use in agency response letters:

Suggested language for initial determination letters:

You have the right to file an administrative appeal within 90 days of the date of this letter. By filing an appeal, you preserve your rights under FOIA and give the agency a chance to review and reconsider your request and the agency’s decision.

If you would like to discuss our response before filing an appeal to attempt to resolve your dispute without going through the appeals process, you may contact our FOIA Public Liaison [NAME] for assistance at:

[MAILING ADDRESS]
[TELEPHONE NUMBER]
[EMAIL ADDRESS]

If you are unable to resolve your FOIA dispute through our FOIA Public Liaison, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the Federal FOIA Ombudsman’s office, offers mediation services to help resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies. The contact information for OGIS is:

Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road–OGIS
College Park, MD 20740-6001
ogis@nara.gov
ogis.archives.gov
202-741-5770
877-684-6448

Suggested language for appeal response letters:

The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the Federal FOIA Ombudsman, offers mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. Using OGIS services does not affect your right to pursue litigation. You may contact OGIS in any of the following ways:

Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road–OGIS
College Park, MD 20740-6001
ogis@nara.gov
ogis.archives.gov
202-741-5770
1-877-684-6448

Suggested language for requests in which unusual circumstances allow for 10 additional working days to respond:

If you dispute this response you may contact our FOIA Public Liaison [NAME] to discuss your request at:

[MAILING ADDRESS]
[TELEPHONE NUMBER]
[EMAIL ADDRESS]

You may also wish to contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the Federal FOIA Ombudsman’s office, which offers mediation services to help resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies. The contact information for OGIS is:

Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road–OGIS
College Park, MD 20740-6001
ogis@nara.gov
ogis.archives.gov
202-741-5770
877-684-6448

As noted previously, we will be sure to update you on any new policies or procedures we adopt as we implement the changes to FOIA. If you have any questions, or would like to know more about what we do, please check out our Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report, or follow us on Twitter.

This entry was posted in About FOIA, About OGIS, Alternative dispute resolution, Best practices. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to FOIA Improvement: Informing Requesters of OGIS Services

  1. Pingback: FOIA Improvement: Updating FOIA Regulations | FOIA Ombudsman

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