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WoofieLeaks Reveals Blatant Bias in Development of GGNRA Dog Plan

04 Jan 2017

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Jan. 4, 2017 - Bay Area dog and recreation groups, who are suing over the controversial plan virtually eliminating dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), have launched WoofieLeaks.com, a website that exposes a biased federal process riddled with clear contempt for the public, the press and elected officials who dared to stand in the way.

Many of the documents now available to the public on WoofieLeaks.com raise serious questions about the agency’s record keeping practices, collaborations with external groups, and ability to conduct a fair planning process.

The potentially embarrassing emails and internal planning documents, revealing a slate of unethical activity by the federal government officials, were obtained by Morrison & Foerster as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed on behalf of Save Our Recreation, SFDOG, Marin County DOG and Coastside DOG of san Mateo County.

“We always suspected the whole process from the beginning to the end was rigged- and now we have the proof,” says Andrea Buffa from Save Our Recreation. “You can see from the FOIA documents we received, the agency was not only biased against but hostile toward anyone who opposed its plan—from concerned community members to elected officials.”

WoofieLeaks.com has documents that show:

  • A senior GGNRA official directing staff to destroy emails.
  • National Park Service staff undisguised contempt for dog walking public, calling them “rattlesnakes” among other derogatory names.
  • Dismissing journalists critical of their plan as “despicable” and biased.
  • A GGRNA biologist urging staff to leave out data in attempt to influence a plan outcome.
  • GGNRA staff providing talking points to groups opposed to dog walking and helping them write op-eds.

Chris Carr, a partner with Morrison & Foerster and head of its Environment and Energy Practice, says these emails and documents are just the tip of the iceberg, pointing out the agency may be withholding a stockpile of emails. For instance, Howard Levitt, the GGNRA’s Director of Communications and Partnerships, can’t “recall” his password to an email system prior to 2013 and so, the agency claims, those emails are inaccessible. Both Levitt and former Superintendent Frank Dean were also caught using their private email accounts to discuss the dog planning process, according to recently obtained records.

“NPS is employing FOIA exemptions very broadly – to disfavor disclosure and minimize transparency – in responding to the FOIA request,” Carr said. “In fact, NPS appears to have worked diligently to shield the GGNRA plan and its ‘park partners’ from scrutiny. The deliberate destruction of public records, failing recollections, and the use of private emails by agency personnel reveal a fatally flawed, fundamentally unfair, and unlawful decision making process.”

The National Park Service is planning to finalize the GGNRA dog management plan on January 10, 2017. Despite the overwhelming opposition of the public and Bay Area elected officials, who repeatedly called for significant change and balance during three public comment periods, the plan has changed very little from draft-to-draft during the past five years.

A complete cache of relevant public documents from the ongoing FOIA suit can be viewed at WoofieLeaks.com.

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