II. The Office of Open Government
The OOG is tasked with numerous duties, including ensuring that the D.C. Council and more than 150 boards and commissions comply with the OMA. The Office needs a significant boost in resources to carry out its mission, including an enhanced role with regard to the FOIA and to provide annual public reporting.
We specifically recommend:
- Increased funding: Increase the FY2016 budget to employ, at a minimum, three attorneys, one paralegal and an office assistant in addition to existing staff, and to make that appropriation as a separate line item in the D.C. budget, distinct from the budget for the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. See below at 15.
- Giving the OOG explicit authority over FOIA: To fulfill its mandate to advance government transparency, the OOG needs explicit authority with regard to FOIA, including, but not limited to, the ability to decide administrative appeals, establish an informal mediation process, issue advisory opinions, initiate or join litigation to enforce or defend its rulings, and file amicus briefs. See below at 15.
- Annual reporting to the mayor and the D.C. Council: The OOG should begin issuing an annual report to the mayor and the Council. The report would set forth the Office’s achievements and goals; evaluate government-wide compliance with the OMA (and FOIA, when that statute is amended); assess how the new open government database (FOIAXpress) is working; and make recommendations for the coming year.
- Expanded leadership beyond FOIA and Open Meetings: The OOG’s mandate should be expanded to encompass other aspects of open government beyond FOIA and the OMA, particularly open information initiatives, such as open data. In expanding its staff, the Office should recruit individuals who can educate government personnel and the community about open data, and facilitate implementation of open data projects under the 2014 open data directive. See below at 19.