|Detail from the complaint document|
In response, ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond has issued a press release calling the lawsuit "frivolous" and "rife with demonstrable falsehoods".
The FOIA request stems from a pair of votes (see "Old Business", near the end of this web page) by ANC2F in March 2014 in support of Ghana Cafe's request to terminate a 2009 settlement agreement. The 2009 agreement is a multi-sided one, between Ghana Cafe, ANC2F, and neighbors. At the March 2014 meeting, ANC2F voted to enter into a new agreement with the Ghana Cafe, independent of other parties. The new agreement is both more lenient than the existing agreement and similar to agreements signed by their newer neighboring competitors. However, it will not come into effect until 2016, when the older, stricter agreement will sunset.
In April 2014, Kane filed a FOIA request, asking for all documents, physical or electronic, that contained the address of the restaurant, the name of the ANC2F liquor-licensing affairs committee, the name of the DC liquor-licensing authority, or the terms "Ghana Cafe", "Settlement Agreement", "resolution", among others, between April 1, 2013, and April 22, 2014.
In his press statement, Raymond says he found "literally thousands" of documents satisfying the criteria. Raymond suggested a narrowing of the criteria due to the many hours it would take to process the documents.
"Neither Kane nor his attorney responded to Raymond’s good-faith offer to comply, instead taking the matter directly to court," Raymond's press statement says.
Kane's court filing quotes a May 14, 2014, letter from Raymond, asking for an extension:
Your request happened to arrive at the same time the expectations and obligations of my day job have been more extreme than at any other time during my tenure here. Multiple projects and events converging within the past couple of weeks necessitated days often lasting 14 to 16 hours.(ANC Commissioner is a voluntary, unpaid position. Commissioners usually have paying daytime jobs. Raymond's Linked-in profile says he is Senior Director of Communications at International Food Information Council Foundation.)
In a May 29, 2014, letter (also quoted in the court filing), Raymond said "ANC2F is unable to respond to the totality of your request", due to the scope of the request and lack of paid staff. Raymond urges Kane "to resubmit your request with a far greater degree of sufficient particularity".
Lawyer for the plantiff responds
Kane referred a request for comment to his lawyer, Don Padou.
In a phone interview, Padou said the decision to begin legal action now stems from ANC2F's decision to reject the FOIA request in its entirety.
"He could have produced some documents to show that they were operating in good faith," Padou said. "Instead, he just denied the entire FOIA request without producing anything."
Padou was unsympathetic to the claim the FOIA request was excessive.
"If they don't have the resources to comply with the FOIA request, that's not my client's fault," Padou said. "DC government has an ANC office. If the ANCs can't comply with FOIA requests, they should staff their office to make compliance possible."
ANC2F had a regular monthly meeting last night (June 4). ANC Chair Raymond was not present. The lawsuit was not mentioned during the first 90 minutes of the meeting, after which I left.
ANC2F's dealings with Ghana Cafe and its neighbors were the subject of previous SALM blog posts on February 14, 2014, and December 20 and October 10, 2013.