Today marks the seven-month anniversary of my oldest outstanding public records request, so please indulge me in some ventilation. Back on April 14, before the snow of last winter melted, I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today, snow once more whitens the ground, and I'm still waiting.
I have asked for the following: Records relating to the "troubled" designation granted to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the City of Mound, as well as the most recent list of troubled housing authorities nationwide. I had noticed Mound's name as the only Minnesota public housing authority on this list, so I thought this request would be a simple matter.
After two months, I did manage to get a list of troubled housing authorities, which I promptly blogged about. But I was told by a FOIA staffer that the list was already outdated, and that the agency would send me a new one, as soon as it cleared the process.
I will not identify the HUD FOIA staffers I have dealt with, because 1) they're still taking my calls, and 2) they may not do so if they feel I'm going to quote them by name.
No one has asserted these records are a threat to national security. The most complicated issue that I heard about was whether members of the public attending meetings should have their names redacted to protect their privacy. I have received many apologies, but no records, and no explanation that makes any sense. My call to the HUD FOIA Public Liaison resulted in another email, promising the dispatch of the records within a day. Still, nothing.
It's not worth suing about, or even bombarding HUD's FOIA bureaucracy with outraged emails, and that's perhaps why this has taken so long. Yet I can't help feeling like one of the bums waiting for Godot. It won't come this evening. It will come tomorrow. We promise.
HUD's most recent FOIA annual report indicates the median turnaround time for "complex" requests was 16.5 days. The longest wait, however, was the better part of two years. So someone out there has been suffering much longer than me. I should feel lucky. But I don't.