Today we present an interview with Abioye Mosheim, Chief FOIA Officer and Assistant General Counsel for FOIA, Privacy and Records at the Consumer Product Safety Commission and a member of the FOIA Advisory Committee. Over the next year, we will share our interviews with other members of the Advisory Committee so that you can get to know them better.
Why did you seek to serve on the FOIA Advisory Committee?
First and foremost I wanted to solve FOIA problems related to time and volume. I also wanted to share my experiences in processing and managing the FOIA at two small agencies with very different challenges—the Copyright Office and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And I wanted to learn more from fellow FOIA professionals [and] gain knowledge that I could take back to my agency and put to good use.
What do you hope to accomplish?
I hope to work with FOIA colleagues to solve problems related to the tension between the 20-day statutory deadline and the voluminous records that must be reviewed and processed in response to most requests. If we can come up with proposed solutions that benefit the rest of the FOIA community, I will be happy.
What is FOIA’s biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge to agencies is having enough resources to respond to FOIA requests within the 20-day statutory timeframe. Those problems [include] having enough staff to both process requests and expertly advise requesters regarding the status and substance of their requests; not having enough money to retain good, dedicated staff; and not having enough money to purchase technology that can quickly and comprehensively search for, review and redact voluminous amounts of records.
Tell us about your favorite FOIA moment.
One of my favorite FOIA moments was geeking out with colleagues over how to respond to a request that involved congressional records. We argued for about an hour over our interpretations of the case law and the best way to process the request. It was the most passionate FOIA discussion I have had to date and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A FOIA request that challenges you and makes you grow in your understanding of the law is a gift.