During the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee, we profiled most of the members on this blog by asking them a few questions about their FOIA experience and what they hoped to accomplish on the Committee. Several returning members were previously profiled including David Cuillier, who has served since 2020; Ginger Quintero-McCall, who served two terms between 2016 and 2020; Tom Susman, who has served since 2016; and Patricia Weth, who has served since 2018. Since she served, Ginger Quintero-McCall is now at Demand Progress. And Patricia Weth is with the National FOIA Office at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To kick off our series highlighting members of the 2022-2024 term, we asked the four members we previously profiled why they sought to return to the FOIA Advisory Committee. Here are their responses.
David Cuillier: I learned so much from the first term and met amazing people, and I felt like there was more work to be done. The Committee came up with promising recommendations for improving the process, particularly in strengthening OGIS, and I think it’s critical we follow through to see real change. It took more than a dozen years to craft FOIA, and as we’ve witnessed, it is going to take much longer to get it where it should be!
Ginger Quintero-McCall: I wanted to return to the Committee because I think it is uniquely positioned to make nuanced, thoughtful proposals for the improvement of FOIA. It is the multistakeholder aspect of the Committee that allows it to serve this unique function—it captures multiple perspectives, concerns, and experiences. I really love working through ideas with other people who are passionate about FOIA.
Tom Susman: Reminds me of the young American tenor appearing for the first time at the renowned La Scala opera house in Milan. After singing a particularly famous aria, the crowd was on its feet cheering and whistling and making such a ruckus that the tenor nodded to the conductor and then sang an encore. Once again, the crowd went wild, and once again, the tenor returned to the center of the stage and repeated the aria. After the same response from the crowd, he stepped to the front of the stage and asked quizzically, “How many times are you going to ask me to sing this aria?” A voice from the crowd shouted out in broken English: “You a gonna sing it until you get it right!”
After participating as a member of three previous [terms of the] FOIA Federal Advisory Committee, I returned because, while the earlier Committees did a great job getting it right, our work is far from finished: We need to give more attention to technology and best practices to streamline and modernize FOIA administration, and we need to follow up on the 50+ recommendations developed by our predecessor Committees. I couldn’t be more delighted that these are two of the priorities of the current Committee.
Patricia Weth: Each term, I learn from the various viewpoints of the Committee members. I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with the members who volunteer their time to work together for the improvement of FOIA administration and proactive disclosures. I returned with the hope that my work and experience will be helpful to the Committee.
Stay tuned as we highlight Committee members over the next several months.