Media Reformers Push For Tomlinson Info


Common Cause, The Center For Digital Democracy, and Free Press are not taking no for an answer when it comes to trying to collect information on former CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson.

The groups have appealed the rejection of their November Freedom of Information Act request from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, where Tomlinson is also chairman.

Their initial request for e-mails, phone logs, and other communications between Tomlinson and the White House, CPB or anyone else about his role at CPB was denied because they were considered "personal" records rather than agency records, according to the groups.

In filing the appeal with the BBG's Access Appeal Committee, the groups argue that FOIA Officer Martha Diaz-Ortiz did not search the records but simply assumed they would not be agency communications.

"While it is unclear how Ms. Diaz-Ortiz concluded that 'all of the materials requested pertain to supposedly personal communications' (and we specifically challenge that characterization)," they wrote in their appeal, "there is no doubt that a wide range of board records potentially reference Mr. Tomlinson's CPB activities, and it is clearly improper to declare such materials beyond the reach of FOIA based solely upon their content."

The CPB Inspector General, Kenneth Konz, concluded last October that Tomlinson had "violated statutory provisions" and the board's code of ethics by dealing directly with programmers during negotiations over the creation of a public affairs program, The Journal Editorial Report, and by using "political tests" to recruit President and CEO Patricia Harrison.

At the time, Konz said that investigation "identified e-mails between the former chairman and staff in the Executive Office of the President that, while cryptic in nature, their timing and subject matter gives the appearance that the former Chairman was strongly motivated by political considerations in filling the President/CEO position." The White House contact was not identified.

"Any suggestion by Mr. Konz that I violated my fiduciary duties, the Director's Code of Ethics or relevant statutory provisions is malicious and irresponsible," Tomlinson, who subsesquently resigned, fired back at the time. "All of my actions were open, lawful, and were taken after consulting and receiving advice from CPB's General Counsel, its President, or the CPB Board of Directors.  Even the most cursory and objective examination of the evidence would have demonstrated this."