Government accountability group sues DOJ for withholding “Public Comments” under FOIA request
- August 21, 2023
Addison Smith, Just the News
A watchdog group committed to governmental transparency announced Monday a lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “force” it to hand over certain FOIA’d documents
Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) filed the lawsuit last week “seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to compel compliance” with a FOIA request for “public comments received by DOJ” pertaining to a proposed consent decree for the Diamond Alkali Superfund Site located on New Jersey’s Lower Passaic River.
In April, PPT alleged that former EPA employee David Batson may have violated a “Lifetime Ban” law by being a “primary negotiator” in the cleanup project with companies that he was involved with “on the same issue as a federal official.”
“PPT has sought to unravel the complex and ethically questionable role that Mr. Batson played in last year’s proposed consent decree,” the group’s press release says. It’s “submitted numerous FOIA requests including asking for the public comments received by the DOJ on this consent decree.”
DOJ Attorney General Merrick Garland once referred to FOIA requests as “a vital tool for ensuring transparency, accessibility, and accountability in government,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain pointed out in the announcement. “Yet his very own agency… is obfuscating, delaying, and failing in its lawful duty on even the simplest and most straightforward request.”