How the Feds Purposefully Stonewalled my Gina Raimondo FOIA Request

I had suspected newly minted US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would tap a COVID collaborator from the Rhode Island Department of Health for a patronage position in DC. My top pick would be Director for Rhode Island Department of Health, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott but alas, Dr. Ashish Jha from Brown University has taken the helm to be President Biden’s COVID Response Coordinator.

My FOIA request was filed 11/9/21 and would only include the first seven months with Raimondo at the helm of US Commerce Secretary.

Description: I request any communications, electronic or otherwise, between Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and any member of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

I am seasoned with experience dealing with legislators and officials where questions are all too often answered at the speed of government stuck in 1st gear and sometimes neutral.

Apparently, I did not know reverse is also on the selector.

Three weeks later after my submission, a contractor from Office of Privacy and Open Government (OPOG) asked for the timeframe I had in mind regarding my request; answer replied to him.

Forward to 1/10/22 and no contact, I inquired about my FOIA and was given the typical (paraphrased) response: “We’re buried and we’ll get to it.”

In April of 2022, almost six months after my initial FOIA submission, I once again asked for an update and was told, “Apologies for the delay. Regarding the records you seek, our workspace will have access to those soon. Once that is completed, I will be able to continue to process your request.”

Alas, almost ten months after my FOIA submission on 11/9/21, after several requests for an update and I implied I was being stalled, it appeared progress was made and I’d soon be able to feast on the information duly owed to me by Federal law.

Here is the response I received by the (once again CONTRACTOR)on 8/3/22: “Please be assured there is no stall. I have one of two searches for your request complete, the other pending. Once the second is complete, I will let know you know.”

A novice to FOIA and APRA requests would probably have either forgotten or abandoned the quest, but I can be a pitbull that’ll latch on and not let go.

I suspected the ‘government stall’ well before this point but certainly was confirmed with this response on 9/16/22. Please keep in mind that on 8/3/22, I was told he had information but somehow it had to be reviewed by the offices that supplied the information: “I am sorting through responsive documents which will likely need to be reviewed from the originating offices.”

Time marched forward and one year after my November of 2022, my FOIA request was passed along the interoffice contingency of their fellow brethren like a Post It note all claiming to become involved with the famous rubber stamp of ‘escalating’ to a priority status. Um, yeah.

On 12/9/22, I filed a complaint with the Office of Government Information Services and in true bureaucratic fashion, the hurdles were brought out claiming: “Please note that we are currently in the process of transitioning to a new case management system. This may cause slight delays in our responses for a short period of time.”

Government has proven itself to be the antithesis of what should be expected for services provided by law to the average citizen. As I’ve shown, bureaucrats have a bottomless pit of spike strips, hurdles, and circular runarounds. If government designed your car’s GPS, it would be stuck on “recalculating.”

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