Burns calls on Casey, Fetterman, Joyce to investigate lethargic HUD response to Prospect information request

State rep. waits well past mandated 20-day time frame for a reply

EBENSBURG, July 13 – After waiting nearly 12 weeks for a reply, state Rep. Frank Burns is asking U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, and U.S. Rep. John Joyce to investigate HUD’s lethargic response to his Freedom of Information Act request for documents and communication concerning the Johnstown Housing Authority’s Prospect housing complex.

“Three months ago, I asked for documents and communication exchanged between the Johnstown Housing Authority, HUD’s Pittsburgh Field Office and/or HUD’s Region III Office in Philadelphia, concerning the Prospect public housing complex,” Burns said. “What I’ve gotten since then is a runaround that no citizen should have to endure – starting with a request for clarification of what is a pretty clear request. Follies such as this have no place in good government.”

Burns, D-Cambria, sent his request via certified mail on April 21, setting in motion a saga that has included:

  • A telephone call from HUD Philadelphia regional official Lisa Nowinski to Burns’ Johnstown office on May 3, saying she had only received the request May 2 (11 days after it was mailed) and asking for clarification of the request, which was provided May 4.
  • A June 13 email to Nowinski from Burns’ staff, stating that six weeks had elapsed since Nowinski acknowledged receiving the request – and noting that “according to the FOIA, a government agency has 20 working days to respond to a request for information. Which – accounting for the May 29 Memorial Day holiday – would have been up on May 31 in Rep. Burns’ case.
  • A June 13 reply email from Nowinski stating, “It has been assigned to the Pittsburgh Field Office for processing.”
  • A June 27 email from Nowinski stating, “The final response to this FOIA request was just sent out.”
  • A July 11 email from Burns’ district office director to Nowinski, stating, “We have not received any correspondence in an email or from the post office. We were hoping you could tell us who this was sent to and when?”
  • A July 11 reply email from HUD Deputy Regional Administrator Robert Ford, stating, “I will meet with the regional FOIA team to see where we are with this request. Please be assured that we take every request seriously. You will hear from me shortly.”

Burns said that while he has exercised extreme patience, the time it has taken HUD to reply far exceeds the 20 working days spelled out in the federal Freedom of Information Act, which is why he’s bringing it to the attention of appropriate federal elected officials.

Burns said he has written Casey, Fetterman and Joyce to apprise them of the situation, and ask for their help in making sure HUD sharpens its required compliance with FOIA requests.