Letter to Lisa Jackson et al
January 10, 2011
Ms. Lisa Jackson, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:
I am writing to request your assistance in obtaining information that, thus far, has been denied under FOIA. The basis for denial was that I am no longer an employee of the Agency. However, the requested information was repeatedly denied even during my tenure with the Agency. A bit of background is necessary at this point.
Shortly after I testified on behalf of Marcia Coleman-Adebayo in her successful suit against the Agency for both racial and sexual discrimination, the Baltic assistance program which I directed was suddenly terminated. According to the Office of International Affairs, the decision was the result of an extensive review of all EPA international activities. These reviews and recommendations were, according to the OIA Assistant Administrator, the Deputy Assistant Administrator (OIA), and other senior OIA staff, contained in a series of “white papers”. I was told, as was the Regional Administrator and the Deputy Regional Administrator that, based on the “white paper”, continuation of the Baltic Assistance program no longer represented a good use of Agency resources. It should be noted that the program was staffed with regional personnel and that Headquarters made no contribution to offset those costs. The question of how a decision about the use of regional staff resources could be made by Headquarters staff without any consultation with the regional office is troubling.
Despite repeated requests, neither I nor the Regional Administrator or the Deputy Regional Administrator were allowed to see the “white paper.” When I filed a request for the document under FOIA, the Agency finally admitted that no such “white paper” ever existed. In fact, all that did exist was a memorandum on the termination of the Baltic program…access to which was denied because I was now no longer an employee of the Agency. Denied when I was in, denied now that I am out…this seems to be the sort of “Catch-22” that makes a mockery of honest and open government.
That the Agency chose to lie repeatedly about the basis for the decision to end the Baltic Assistance program is, I think you will agree, not acceptable behavior. However, why the decision was made, and the cover up necessary, is not particularly difficult to understand. Termination of the program was an act of retaliation for my testimony in the Coleman-Adebayo case…a case directly aimed at senior OIA managers. Retaliation in civil rights cases is prohibited and has serious consequences for those undertaking the retaliatory actions. More recently, the Supreme Court ( see Burlington Northern& Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Co. V. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006)), not only upheld the prohibition against such retaliation but greatly broadened its definition.
The question now is whether you will allow the cover-up to continue or decide, in line with the President’s commitment to transparency, to release the memorandum documenting the decision to terminate the Baltic Assistance program. This piece of evidence is essential to prove or disprove whether or not retaliation occurred. It does not seem to be in the interest of the Agency to withhold, much less destroy, key evidence at this juncture and I respectfully request that you voluntarily release the requested information at the earliest opportunity.
Jon T. Grand
Northbrook, IL 60062
Sen. Richard Durbin
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee
Rev. Walter Fauntroy
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Valdas V. Adamkus