This week, the Justice Department welcomed individuals from around the government and members of the public to the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy building to kickoff Sunshine
Week 2017. This year’s event included the presentation of the 2017 Sunshine Week FOIA Awards and keynote remarks from OIP Director Melanie Ann Pustay.
The event began with a welcome from Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, who also serves as the Department’s Chief FOIA Officer. The Acting Associate Attorney General noted that Sunshine Week provides an important opportunity to recognize the key role that the FOIA serves in ensuring an open government. He remarked that the Department of Justice takes very seriously, and is proud of, its responsibility to encourage government-wide compliance with the law. Mr. Panuccio thanked the FOIA professionals in the audience for their hard work and for the vital service they provide the American public.
In her remarks, Director Pustay spoke about the history of the FOIA and the continuous increase in demand by the public to use the law as an essential tool for achieving the open government envisioned by our founding fathers. Working to meet this high demand, Director Pustay highlighted success stories on various aspects of FOIA administration from agencies across the government. Following her remarks, Director Pustay recognized this year’s Sunshine Week Award recipients. During the award presentation ceremony Director Pustay highlighted key achievements in FOIA administration for each recipient. The following awards were presented:
Exceptional Service by a FOIA Professional or a Team of FOIA Professionals
This award recognized exemplary performance by an agency FOIA professional or team of FOIA professionals in carrying out the agency’s administration of the FOIA. Five Exceptional Service awards were presented to:
- Denise Smith – Tennessee Valley Authority
- The Department of Health and Human Services FOIA Team
- The Federal Bureau of Prisons FOIA Working Group
- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission FOIA Team
- The National Labor Relations Board FOIA Branch
Lifetime Service Award
This award recognized an individual with at least twenty years of service who demonstrated high standards of excellence and dedication. The Lifetime Service award was presented to:
- Deirdre MacNeil – National Labor Relations Board
Following the awards presentation, Director Pustay reconvened the FOIA IT Working Group and moderated a very informative panel discussion on utilizing modern technology in FOIA administration. Over the last seven years, the IT Working Group has discussed a range of topics, including providing records in electronic formats, improvements in agency FOIA websites, and the use of advanced document processing tools. The Sunshine Week meeting included a vibrant discussion with the following panel of experts: Ron Bewtra, Chief Technology Officer at the Department of Justice; Doug Hibbard, Senior Advisor to the Initial Request Staff with the Office of Information Policy; Rachel Dowell, Assistant Counsel for the Office of Government Ethics (OGE); and Michael Hanson, Systems Engineer and Software Developer at OGE. The key theme that emerged throughout the discussion was the need for collaboration between technology and FOIA professionals and the importance of leadership and a clear vision for how technology can support the agency's mission.
We would like to thank everyone who joined us for the Department’s Sunshine Week Kickoff event this year. As we continue to celebrate Sunshine Week this week, be sure to read FOIA Post for announcements and news from OIP.