Mark Your Calendars

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Alina Semo, Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), closes the OGIS Annual Open Meeting with remarks at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on May 18, 2018. NARA photo by Jeff Reed.

During our Second Annual Open Meeting on May 18, 2018 our Director, Alina Semo, shared a preview of what you can expect from OGIS during the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, including event dates, upcoming reports and other exciting news.

We hope you will mark your calendars for several upcoming events we will be hosting in the William G. McGowan Theater:

Before the end of FY 2018 we also expect to release our assessment report of the United States Postal Service (USPS) FOIA Program and at least one issue assessment. OGIS’s issue assessments evaluate specific FOIA practices at several agencies. Our first issue assessment, which we rolled out in three parts, looked at the use of “still interested letters” to administratively close FOIA requests. We are currently conducting an assessment of agency compliance with requirements that requesters be alerted of the availability of  dispute resolution services, and are planning to tackle several of the issues addressed by the FOIA Advisory Committee in their Final Report and Recommendations.

We are also very happy to announce that we plan to roll out our first advisory opinions during FY 2018. Prior to the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, OGIS’ authority to issue advisory opinions was tied to the resolution of a particular request for mediation services.  For several years, OGIS struggled with how to reconcile its authority to issue advisory opinions with the need to act as an impartial party that can facilitate the resolution of disputes between requesters and agencies while complying with the confidentiality provisions of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996. OGIS intends to utilize this now-modified advisory opinion power to issue opinions that address the most common disputes, complaints, and trends that we identify through our dispute resolution practice. Our plan is to build a body of advisory opinions, available online for both requesters and agencies to consult, that will help head off disputes before they fester or lead to litigation. We also plan to pair our advisory opinions with a new educational vehicle we are calling the FOIA Ombuds Observer. Education about the FOIA is a critical component of our work as the FOIA Ombudsman, and is a key strategy for avoiding unnecessary litigation. The FOIA Ombuds Observer will address a variety of FOIA-focused topics based on questions we receive frequently and repeatedly from our customers.

To keep up with our events and work, be sure to regularly check this blog, follow us on Twitter – @FOIA_Ombuds, and visit our website, www.archives.gov/ogis!

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