1997 Report to the President of the U.S. Senate

March 6, 1998

The Honorable Albert B. Gore, Jr.
President of the Senate
Washington, DC 20510-6250

Dear Mr. President:

This is the final calendar year-based annual report of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), filed under the prior version of paragraph (e) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as previously codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(e), for the nine-month period of January 1, 1997, to September 30, 1997. Future annual reports of OGE will be made on a fiscal year basis to the Department of Justice as well as being placed on OGE's Web site (address: http://www.usoge.gov) in accordance with the 1996 Electronic FOIA Amendments (Public Law No. 104-231). This particular OGE FOIA report is being submitted to you for referral to our Senate oversight committee, care of The Honorable Fred Thompson, Chairman, Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.

(1) OGE received a total of 37 FOIA requests (including one administrative appeal of a fee waiver denial) during the first nine months of 1997. (Four of the requests (including one administrative appeal) also cited the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a; OGE had no responsive Privacy Act records as to any of them.) Of these FOIA requests, 19 were granted in full, one was granted for records available at OGE, five were granted in part and denied in part, four were denied in full, three had no responsive records, two were not resolved at the end of the reporting period, one was not a proper FOIA request, one involved a fee waiver request which was denied (both initially (twice) and once on administrative appeal). These totals include OGE determinations regarding consultations with other agencies that received FOIA requests for certain OGE-originated documents. OGE also referred to and consulted with other agencies as to responsive records in its files originating with them. The FOIA exemptions upon which OGE based partial or full denials (and the frequency of reliance thereon for each) were as follows: (b)(3) (four times for section 105 of the Ethics in Government Act, 5 U.S.C. app. § 105, and once for section 107 of the Ethics Act, 5 U.S.C. app. § 107 (and section 201(d) of E.O. 12674/12731 and subpart I of 5 C.F.R. part 2634); (b)(4) (nine times); (b)(5) (ten times); (b)(6) (nine times); and (b)(7)(C) (one time).

(2) One administrative appeal was taken under FOIA subsection (a)(6) during this reporting period. In this appeal, a fee waiver denial was upheld as proper.

(3) The OGE officials responsible for the nine partial or complete denials of requests received by this Agency during this reporting period were the General Counsel Marilyn L. Glynn, who handled two, and the Deputy General Counsel Stuart D. Rick, who handled seven (and also determined to deny a fee waiver request twice). The OGE Deputy Director F. Gary Davis handled the administrative appeal decision upholding the initial fee waiver denial determination.

(4) OGE was not involved in any FOIA subsection (a)(4)(F) proceedings nor any FOIA litigation during this reporting period.

(5) OGE did not publish any amendments to its FOIA regulations (as codified at 5 C.F.R. part 2604) during the reporting period.

(6) OGE's FOIA fee schedule is found at subpart E of 5 C.F.R. part 2604. Fees for one FOIA request were in the process of being assessed, but were not finalized at the end of the reporting period; thus, none were collected.

(7) OGE does not have a backlog for processing FOIA requests. This Agency has designated a senior attorney, William E. Gressman, as its FOIA contact person. Other Agency staff also assist in handling OGE's FOIA workload. Both Mr. Gressman and the back-up personnel attend various Justice Department and other FOIA training sessions and meetings from time to time in order to enhance their FOIA skills. Moreover, OGE operates a separate public availability system under the Ethics in Government Act as to SF 278 Public Financial Disclosure Reports filed by high-level executive branch officials subject to Presidential appointment and confirmation by the Senate and certain other records covered by the Ethics Act access provisions. OGE has regulations on fees for voluminous requests for access to such reports under the Ethics Act (see subpart G of 5 C.F.R. part 2604) -- two such fees, for a total of $53.58, were collected during this January-September 1997 reporting period.

If there are any questions about this report, the OGE contact person is Mr. Gressman (telephone: 202-208-8000, ext. 1110).

Sincerely,

Stephen D. Potts
Director