We have been keeping readers up to date throughout the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) court case between Brookland resident Conor Crimmins and ANC 5B, specifically ANC 5B04 Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe. Now the case has finally come to an end. The FOIA request was for the release of the audio recording of the April 2013 SMD 5B04 meeting taken by Commissioner Steptoe. Her refusal to release it until subpoenaed to do so was the basis of this law suit. We learned at the latest hearing that a forensics expert was able to recover the audio file from the recording device, despite the finding that it was intentionally deleted and was made available to the public. We included a link to the audio recording in our last post about this case. On Tuesday April 15 Superior Judge Michael O’Keefe has announced his final ruling in this case. Sorry for the delay in bringing the final results of the case to you. Here is a link to the complete Court Order. To save you some time, here are a few key excerpts from the Court Order:
- The Court concludes that more likely than not, Commissioner Steptoe deleted the file subject to the FOIA request in order to frustrate attempts to obtain it.
- Commissioner Steptoe’s behavior is regrettable and possibly criminal under D.C. Code § 2-537(d). To make matters worse, Commissioner Steptoe testified falsely under oath about this matter. Her testimony was confusing and contradictory.
- Commissioner Steptoe acknowledged her suspicion that “FOIA requests tend to be pretextual strategies by person/entities seeking a leg up and/or expose.” Her contumacious behavior stems from her refusal to provide D.C. residents with an audio recording of an ANC SMD 5B04 meeting that she held regarding an issue of interest to many people in the neighborhood.
- Ironically, Commissioner Steptoe stated that she wished the recording could be found because the recording would prove she acted appropriately during the hearing.
- Upon inspection, Commissioner Steptoe’s recorder was fully functioning, there was no evidence of file corruption, and he was able to determine that the recording of the April 27, 2013, meeting had been manually deleted.
- The Court will refer the case to the OAG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution of Commissioner Steptoe’s perjury and destruction of the recording.
This Court Order marks the end of this civil case, but it leaves DC taxpayers with a price to pay, as the Washington City Paper reported that the cost to defend ANC 5B and Commissioner Steptoe will be around $60,000. We will stay on top of this issue and see what happens if/when the OAG and US Attorney’s Office pick up the matter in criminal court. From what we understand, the penalty for perjury is up to 10 years, though it can be difficult to prove.