I so want to believe in the integrity of the Rio Grande National Forest administrators and their Environmental Impact Study staff, but the more information comes forward the harder it gets.
Group says collusion apparent in Village at Wolf Creek development project
Documents suggest Forest Service concealed and deleted information, allowed undue influence
- Actively concealed and destroyed information involving the Village at Wolf Creek proposal
- Allowed Red McCombs to threaten Forest Service staff and influence the analysis
- Refused to conduct a search for relevant documents that should be available for public scrutiny unless and until compelled by a Court order
- Emails also reveal a practice of improperly using the attorney-client privilege by proposing, “I’ll have Rick send it electronically through an email with [Solicitor] Ken [Capps] as a cc so it will remain attorney-client privilege and not subject to FOIA from what I understand.” Exh. 10 at Page #3.
- These are a few of the examples picked to shine a light on the Forest Service’s practice of shielding documents from public scrutiny. More documents are available within the record.
Documents confirm that McCombs’ lobbyists influenced officials
- Information about the project analysis was released to Red McCombs, his staff, and his attorneys during regular phone conversations involving Government decision makers, Government counsel, and the project proponent. Exh 16 especially Page #2. (Examples of agency phone calls with Proponent).
- The incomplete set of records confirms that many of these phone calls contained threats aimed at influencing the process and decision.
o McCombs is rattling cages. Exh. 16 at Page #6
o Mr. McCombs was predictably upset and it is expected that he will use every political avenue open to him to encourage the Forest Service to finalize its decision now. Exh. 16 at Page #9
- Recently disclosed records confirm an ongoing series of discussions between the USDA Forest Service, USDA Office of General Counsel, and the project proponent during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision. Exh. 16 (emails confirming agency phone calls with Red McCombs, Adam Poe, Clint Jones, Steve Quarrels).
- The Colorado District Court filings that lead to the invalidation of the 2008 FEIS and access decisions confirm a similar cast of attorneys and staff that exerted undue influence on the Forest Service. [Colorado Wild v. Clark, 06-cv-02089 (FOIA litigation addressing, inter alia, records involving the ghost drafting of government documents) discussed at ECF No. 38 at 21-22]
- Despite active concealment and destruction of agency records, a partial set of agency records documenting telephone and text communications were identified by the recent searches. ECF No. 34 at 14.
- Some of the agency records documenting the coordination between the Forest Service and the McCombs Team are still being withheld. Among the most egregious examples is the Government’s claim of attorney/client privilege to redact an email sent by Adam Poe identifying similarly situated properties. Exh. 22. The Forest Service continues to withhold an October 25, 2015 email from Forest Wildlife Biologist Randy Ghormley “summarizing the key questions raised by the attorney for the VWC applicant yesterday...” Exh. 22 at Page #5.