Among my email correspondence relating to the Climategate affair, there are many expressions of sympathy for David Palmer, the UEA Freedom of Information officer. Although his involvement in the various false statements issued by the university cannot be determined with certainty, one did rather get the impression that he was struggling valiantly to comply with the legislation.
This cannot have been an easy task. A blog posting (here) by Paul Gibbons, an FOI officer in local government, reveals some of the pressures that senior officials in public bodies use to try to corrupt their FOI staff:
FOI Officers often find themselves in tricky situations. I’ve referred previously to a meeting on one occasion where the Mayor of London’s then Director of Communications once lightly suggested that if I couldn’t be more helpful, I and my team might find ourselves redundant. Wiser heads calmed the situation but I suspect I’m not the only FOI Officer to find themselves on the wrong side of an argument with the powers-that-be. Other FOI Officers I know have been persona non grata in parts of their organisation. And all for doing their jobs.
As Gibbons says, requesters should give FOI officers a break.