FOIA Request Do-overs

For the past two weeks, I have been in communication with both the Fort Worth Department of Planning and Development and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas. I received a response from both agencies within the required time frame of 20 business days. However, I have yet to receive any documents due to a few needs for clarification.

First, the FOIA request I filed with the City of Fort Worth required an address in order to search the database. I then tried to ask if they could search within 3 miles of a specific address. However, according to a representative from the Department of Planning and Development, they can only search an exact address and cannot search by block or miles. Therefore, to accommodate this requirement, I resubmitted a FOIA request that only asked for building permits concerning the Worth Hills Building located in the Worth Hills area of TCU’s campus, which is supposedly going to be torn down within the next few years. I used that specific building as the exact address, because I know TCU is planning the further develop the entire area around that building. If received, the plans for the Worth Hills Building will give me a better idea of how the rest of the area is planning to be used.

The second problem I ran into was with the files I requested from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas. Assistant Director of the U.S. Department of Justice Susan B. Gerson replied to my request stating that the contents of my request could not be fulfilled because they were “concerning a third party (or third parties).” The letter read, “Records pertaining to a third party generally cannot be released absent express authorization and consent of the third party, proof that the subject of your request is deceased, or a clear demonstration that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the personal privacy interest and that significant public benefit would result from the disclosure of the requested records.” I can understand how the release of records concerning human trafficking victims would be a breach of the victims’ privacy. Therefore, I refiled a FOIA request asking for any public records concerning human trafficking cases, such as news clippings and court records, from January of 1995 to present. These should all be public records and subject to release by a FOIA request.

I was pleased with the responses I received. While I have yet to gain the information I was seeking in both of these FOIA requests, the responses I received were both polite and within the allotted time frame required for a response. Now, it is time to wait again, and this time, I have hopefully avoided any other complications or needs for clarification that could delay my receiving the requested information. However, we will just have to cross our fingers and wait and see.

Please click the link below to view the letter I received from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas in response to the first FOIA request I filed in October.



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