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Saturday, August 04, 2007

FEMA Still Dragging Feet on Records...

From the FEMA case in Florida comes news of government delay, even in the face of a judicial order...

Time is running out for the federal government to appeal a court ruling that requires the release of records detailing money sent to Florida households following the 2004 hurricane season.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had yet to petition the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled June 22 that FEMA officials must release the addresses of the 600,000 state households that received $1.2 billion.

FEMA officials have until the end of the day Monday to decide what they will do. They refused to comment Thursday.

The court ruling is the result of a lawsuit that The News-Press, Pensacola News Journal and Florida Today newspapers — all owned by Gannett Co. Inc. — filed against FEMA more than two years ago, seeking the names and addresses of households that received money.

The judges said providing the addresses will show whether FEMA has been a good steward of billions of taxpayer dollars in the wake of several natural disasters across the country.

"We cannot find any privacy interests here that even begin to outweigh this public interest," the court opinion read in part.

Kate Marymont, vice president/news of The News-Press, stands strong about Gannett's effort to protect the public's right to know.

"I believed from the day we first asked for these records that this is information that belongs to those citizens," Marymont said. "A federal court has said those records should be public. It's up to FEMA now if they're going to prolong and continue an expensive fight to keep these records from the public."

More here.

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