The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) appears to have a pattern and practice of denying fee waivers to non-profit public interest groups, offering no clear rationale and in a flagrant violation of the the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). HUD’s pattern of denying fee waivers to public interest groups dates back to August 2017. In response, CREW filed a lawsuit on November 26, 2018, against HUD under FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, for injunctive, declaratory, and other appropriate relief.
On October 1, 2018, CREW sent a FOIA request to HUD for Secretary Ben Carson’s schedule from July 16 to July 18, 2018 in order to see if Carson had also limited the level of detail that was publicly available on his calendars like Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
CREW requested a fee waiver because as an organization that disseminates documents to the public, it qualifies as a member of the news media. Less than 24 hours later, HUD denied the fee waiver request, offering no rationale, but saying it was not “in the ‘public interest’ as required by statute.” CREW appealed the decision, pointing out that there was significant public interest in cabinet secretaries calendars, but on November 6, 2018 HUD again rejected the fee waiver request saying that CREW provided no “compelling facts” that Carson has taken measures to hide his activity from the public.
In January 2018, CREW sued over similar fee waiver denials, but the behavior has persisted.