This past Monday, individuals from around the government and members of the public gathered in the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Building to celebrate the start of Sunshine Week 2015. The annual event, held in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the issuance of Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines, recognized and celebrated the accomplishments of agency FOIA professionals.
Acting Associate Attorney General and Department of Justice Chief FOIA Officer Stuart Delery served as the keynote speaker at the event, and highlighted a number of FOIA initiatives undertaken at the Justice Department over the last year, including:
- The FOIA Improvement Initiative - a comprehensive review of FOIA operations at the Department’s thirty-seven components designed to share best practices and identify areas for improvement,
- FOIA Training Modernization – OIP’s recently released suite of electronic FOIA training resources, designed for members of the federal workforce at every level, and
- Best Practices Workshop Series – the ongoing series aimed at gathering together FOIA professionals from around the government, as well as civil society, to share experiences, lessons learned, and strategies for success on a variety of topics.
In his remarks, Acting Associate Attorney General Delery stressed that “[t]hese steps to spread awareness and expertise across the government are vital to promoting FOIA’s objective of transparency and openness.” The Acting Associate Attorney General provided the following message to FOIA professionals who continue to process ever-increasing numbers of requests:
“I commend all of you for the dedication you continue to demonstrate in performing a difficult and important job, and now I am pleased to have the chance to honor the recipients of this year’s awards for outstanding contributions to our FOIA work.”
Agencies and members of the public were asked to submit nominations for six award categories to OIP. Key achievements from these submissions were highlighted by OIP Director Melanie Ann Pustay when recognizing each award recipient. As nominated by their agencies, the following awards were presented by Acting Associate Attorney General Delery and Director Pustay:
- Exceptional Service by a FOIA Professional: Martha Wagner Murphy (National Archives and Records Administration), Cynthia Floyd-Coleman (Environmental Protection Agency), and Manizheh Boehm (Federal Highway Administration)
- Award for Exceptional FOIA Service by a Team of Agency Professionals: The Federal Highway Administration Headquarters Chief Counsel FOIA Team, the Department of Agriculture FOIA Training Subcommittee, and the Office of Personnel Management FOIA Service Center team.
- Lifetime Service Award: Debbie Verzi (Social Security Administration), and Brenda Dolan (Department of Commerce)
- Excellence in Management: James Holzer (Department of Homeland Security), Michael Marquis (Department of Health and Human Services), and Kathy Ray (Department of Transportation)
- Outstanding Contributions by a New Employee: Arnon Dayak (Food and Drug Administration), and Alexis Graves (Department of Agriculture)
- Outstanding Customer Service: Roberta Parsons (Department of Commerce), Harriette Boyd (Department of Commerce), and Judith Lewis (Environmental Protection Agency)
OIP would like to again recognize and thank each of the awardees for their work and contributions towards the administration of the FOIA at their agencies. Agency FOIA professionals are the heart of any successful FOIA administration and we commend their hard work and continued service.
Read the full remarks from Acting Associate Attorney General and Department of Justice Chief FOIA Officer Stuart Delery.