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DC Appeals Court Orders City Council to Produce Records Related to Development of McMillan Park Site

In a decision handed down on June 9th, the DC Court of Appeals ordered the Council to open its records related to the development of this historic site already underway. The Court rejected the Council’s arguement that the records were protected from disclosure by the District’s speech or debate statute.

(This lawsuit predates and is different from the one now pending which is discussed in this month’s lead story, “Turmoil Continues Over McMillan Park Site Development; Friends Group Contests Validity of Zoning Commission’s Green Light for PUD, Files Appeal with DC Appeals Court.”)

The Court’s decision means that the Council is fully subject to the District’s Freedom of Information Act. The Council had sought to avoid compliance with the Act by asserting that the speech or debate statute, the Legislature Protection Act, provided a massive exception that allowed it to withhold almost any record.

The Court’s decision arose from a lawsuit brought by Bloomingdale neighborhood resident  Kirby Vining, one of the founders of Friends of McMillan Park, who said, “The public won today . . . very specifically regarding McMillan Park. This win means that the public will finally get to review the records of how councilmembers, executive agencies, and private developers worked behind closed doors, doors the Council worked very hard to keep closed, to create a sweetheart deal to destroy a historic landmark.”

Continuing, Vining remarked that the “public also won in a bigger way that will affect the District for decades to come because this win means that anyone can now get many records that the Council would have kept in the dark. This is a step toward greater transparency.”

Concluding his remarks, Vining also thanked the Court “for ruling on behalf of the people. This decision is yet another victory in the efforts of the Friends of McMillan Park to hold the District to abide by existing rules and regulations to revitalize McMillan Park for future generations, keeping openness and transparency in this process.”

–P.L. Wolff