The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) has reappointed Niquelle M. Allen as Director of Open Government, voting unanimously to do so at its June 8, 2023, meeting. In her second term which begins July 2, 2023, Allen will continue to direct the Office of Open Government, a six-person unit established in 2012 that offers training on the law, enforces the Open Meetings Act, advises on agencies’ work under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act, and advises the D.C. Council with expert views.
“The Coalition is pleased that BEGA reappointed Niquelle Allen to continue at the helm of the Office of Open Government,” said Coalition President Kirsten B. Mitchell. “Director Allen has demonstrated both energy and courage in her commitment to the pursuit of greater D.C. transparency, which will serve our city well. District residents know that there is still much left to do in this arena.”
During the pandemic, the office advised on adaptations to open government policy including training board and commission members on rules for virtual meetings. The office has brought perspective from other cities and states into its suggestions for improvements in open government in its section of the annual BEGA report on best practices and in Council testimonies.
In original and revised legislation over the years, the Council has created an unusual office, established within an independent board and with authority to investigate other executive agencies, report on problems, and take enforcement actions. If oversight is robust, it has the potential for unwelcome findings for D.C. government executives, but the office has weathered its storms of that kind. The Coalition’s vote of confidence is shown in advocacy for further authority for the office, for example expanded oversight on Freedom of Information Act issues to address widespread response delays and improve handling of appeals as a crucial alternative to slow and costly litigation.
The D.C. Open Government Coalition has used the complaint process in the law to ask for review of wrongly closed meetings, agency FOIA policies contrary to law, and more. All have been considered promptly and fairly by the Office of Open Government. The office has maintained the necessary independence in Council testimony and published opinions, especially considering widespread concerns when the first director was not reappointed in 2018.
The Open Government Coalition looks forward to working with Director Allen on the many challenges of open government, especially the proposed task force or commission we have discussed with the Council to review and improve present law.