You may remember that ANC 5B lost a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case that forced ANC 5B to release the Exhibits associated with their vote to protest the Brookland’s Finest liquor license application. We recently got word that ANC 5B lost another FOIA case, also related to Brookland’s Finest. The issue at the heart of this case is the April 2013 ANC 5B-04 meeting hosted by Carolyn Steptoe. For many neighbors this was the first chance to learn about the restaurant directly from the owners.That meeting, attended by well over 60 neighbors, was pretty bizarre as ANC meetings go and ended abruptly by Commissioner Steptoe after only one question was asked by the attendees. Many residents claim that Commissioner Steptoe was rude and dismissive to her constituents and the Brookland’s Finest team, and grew increasingly hostile when it was clear that the vast majority supported the restaurant. On the other hand, Commissioner Steptoe claimed that meeting attendees were disrespectful and mob-like towards her, and that is what prompted her to shut down the meeting; as documented by her postings on the Brookland listserv and a letter she wrote for the DC Watch website:
Recently, my single member district gathering to hear a presentation from an establishment about its liquor license application became so disruptive and unruly that the gathering was adjourned within the first hour.
Other than hearsay, the only documentation of what actually occurred is an audio recording Commissioner Steptoe made during the meeting. Realizing this recording could provide clarity to the situation, Brookland resident Conor Crimmins and the Brookland Bridge submitted FOIA requests to ANC 5B for the recording, both of which were denied. Mr. Crimmins decided to pursue the issue and took it court. The result, this summary judgment, requires Commissioner Steptoe to release the recording despite her contention that the recording was made with her personal device and therefore is her possession. An excerpt:
“Given the plain meaning and intent of Freedom of Information Act, this argument is bewildering. Simply put, Defendant ANC 5B is a statutorily created entity which is part of the government of the District of Columbia. Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe is the Vice Chairperson of ANC 5B. In her official capacity as Commissioner of SMD 5B04 she held a public meeting concerning issues important to the people of her district. She recorded that meeting as required under the law and she referred to the recording in the exercise of her official duties. The law requires that she make that recording available to the public, and she will do so.”
We will attempt to get a hold of the recording and make it available to our readers.
Another blow to ANC 5B was delivered yesterday when their Motion for Reconsideration of the liquor license that was granted to Brookland’s Finest was denied by ABRA. (You can read ANC 5B’s Motion here.) The ABRA Order denying the Motion stated that the arguments made in ANC 5B’s Motion were “conclusory, speculative, and without merit”.
Hopefully the FOIA case and the denied Motion will be the last attempt to throw roadblocks in the way of this neighborhood business. Commissioner Steptoe has sent an email to her distribution list saying that ANC 5B will not pursue further litigation on the matter.