July 29, 2016 9:09 pm ET
VA ignored Freedom of Information Request
In an unprecedented move, the Fort Howard Community was given the green light by U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III to sue the VA over its failure to respond in the prescribed manner under the FOIA Law to the FH Community’s request for, among other items, a copy of the Enhanced Use Lease (EUL).
The VA failed to respond in the allotted time frame to the community’s request for information. In addition, when cornered, the agency put up a veiled attempt to protect the contents of the EUL on grounds that it would harm the holder of the lease, Tim Munshell. Thankfully, the FH Community fought back with a legal reply. Judge Russell agreed with the FH Community, thus moving the suit forward.
In plain language, the VA’s argument was weak at best and obscured in its argument that disclosing a copy of the EUL would harm the lease holder.
The community argued successfully that, since the lease was already signed by developer Munshell and the VA, there was no pending harm, and the community had a right to view the documents on the basis of the potential impact on the peninsula.
I will post the documents in connection with this lawsuit for your review; however, I will paraphrase the elements of the case in order to simplify the facts of this momentous court action by a community to have a voice in the decision process, which is often corrupted by the government and those associated with the process.
This was highlighted in the GOA report that I wrote about back in 2012 on many of the legal issues surrounding these EULs:
A copy of the GAO critical report is contained in the article.
Before I get into the matters of the decision by the judge to allow this case to move forward, let me offer my opinion on a couple of issues pertaining to the Fort Howard Community Association, Inc. and its standing in what is known as the FH Peninsula.
Prior to the formation of the FH Community Association, there were two leaders that fought this massive attempt by the VA and developer Munshell to, in my opinion, destroy the entire peninsula with a $500 million metropolis/city development. What made matters worse was that the deal had everything to benefit the developers and nothing to benefit the community or the veterans.
Two men, now deceased but not forgotten, led the fight against this terrible plague by a corrupt government agency, the VA, which was caught at every turn attempting to circumvent the law in the submission of this EUL.
The two men who stood for both the community and the veterans were the late Harry Wujek, past president of the North Point Peninsula Community Coordinating Council, and Alfred E. Clasing, to whom the Baltimore Sun paid homage in a well-written article by Erica Green.
After the death of these two community stalwarts, the reigns were turned over to Russell Donnelly (Save Fort Howard) and Fran Taylor (NPPCCC), who were supposed to continued the good fight.
In my opinion, what took place after the change in leadership was some political posturing in the form of Fran Taylor’s leadership of the NPPCCC and, as Bill O’Reilly would say, “bloviating” when, in fact, he may be playing both sides against the middle. Look, listen, and decide.
In this case, Mr. Taylor shut down the discourse with me and Councilman Crandell, especially when the NPPCCC voted in favor of asking Crandell to delay his bill until the community had a chance to review it.
(Sorry for the background noise. The meeting was next to a gym.)
Why is this important? Because, for more than 10 years, this battle has been going on with little in legal action to slow it down. In plain words, there was no effective leadership either from the now rudderless Save Fort Howard group or the NPPCCC.
Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is at the forefront in leading the charge for this development, as seen in this interview recorded in 2014:
As for Mr. Donnelly, since taking over the Save Fort Howard group, he has had two so-called emergency meetings (one in the dead of winter), and his latest one accomplished nothing.
Had the new developer, Cignal Corp.’s, Armando Cignarale, not shown up uninvited at the last Save Fort Howard meeting, you would have seen a group of empty tables where the politicians were suppose to be.
Later in the meeting, Delegates Bob Long and Ric Metzgar did make a brief appearance.
As you can see, Mr. Donnelly’s meeting did not get off to an auspicious start:
My point is that Mr. Donnelly is long on promises and short on delivery, including his promise made to me on several occasions to provide solid information on the FH issue.
I’m still waiting on that information from a year ago, by the way.
That is why this action of filing a federal lawsuit by the FH Community Association is so important. It’s the first time this battle has seen the inside of a courtroom, and a federal one at that.
In the end, this groundbreaking lawsuit separates the leaders from the followers.
This shows a community willing to take action in challenging a large and most dysfunctional federal agency by demanding accountability
As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
The following links are related to the legal documents in this case: