Since D.C. officials refused to turn over any documents about their investigation and decision not to prosecute NBC News’ David Gregory, we have to depend on the Freedom of Information Act to force transparency.
Mayor Vincent Gray’s office, however, responded to my request by deflecting. It turned out, he was hiding information.
On March 11, I sent a detailed request to FOIA Officer Mikelle DeVillier in the Executive Office of the Mayor. I asked for all documents about Mr. Gregory’s possession of an illegal 30-round magazine. Government agencies are required to respond to a FOIA request within 15 working days.
Ms. DeVillier used every hour of that time frame, responding to me on April 1.
“These are not the type of documents generally maintained by the Executive Office of the Mayor,” she wrote. “Based upon the information requested, and my familiarity with the various District agencies, this request would be more properly directed to [Metropolitan Police Department] and the [Office of the Attorney General].”
This appeared to be just passing the buck, but the next part made me realize the agencies were all in cahoots.
“However, it has come to my attention that this request was also previously submitted, by you, to the aforementioned agencies.” Ms. DeVillier wrote. “It is my understanding that MPD and OAG will respond to your FOIA request.”
In fact, the FOIA requests to the two agencies and the mayor’s office asked for different documents. I deliberately sent them separately to see if one would hand over a document that another would not and to track who was in communications with NBC and its representatives.
I replied to Ms. DeVillier the same day. “It does not answer my request to know if the mayor's office has any documents related to this case. Has his office been in contact with NBC, OAG or MPD on any of the matters listed in my request?”
She did not respond.
On April 22, I emailed again: “I’ve waited three weeks for you to respond to my last email, so I know whether I need to escalate this request.”
Six hours later, she responded with a second FOIA letter, this one containing new information that she had attempted to hide on the first round.
Ms. DeVillier reiterated that the information I wanted would come from the police and the prosecutor, then added: “However, at your request, an additional search was conducted within [the mayor’s office] that yielded electronic mail documents responsive to your request.”
But, this new discovery was still being withheld from the public.