CAS FOIA’s on Strickland/Chrysler Emails
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
On June 3, 2013, NHTSA issued a recall request letter to Chrysler requesting a recall of the 2002–07 Jeep Liberty and 1993–04 Jeep Grand Cherokees for fuel tank fires. Six days later on June 9, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, and Chrysler-Fiat Chairman Sergio Marchionne held a secret meeting in an FAA office building near Chicago. On June 18, 2013, Chrysler agreed to perform a voluntary recall of the 2002-07 Liberty, and the 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokees, which excluded the 1999-2004 Grand Cherokees.
On January 17, 2014, NHTSA announced it would close investigation EA12-005 and allow the trailer hitch recall remedy to go forward. On that same day, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland resigned to take a job at Venable LLC, a Washington law firm that represents Chrysler.
On February 6, 2014, CAS filed a FOIA request for all emails between NHTSA employees and Chrysler from June 1, 2013 until that date. In its May 6, 2014 response to the request, NHTSA provided CAS 15 pages of heavily redacted emails from November and December of 2013. These emails did not involve the administrator’s office, but were communications between the Office of Defects Investigation and Chrysler.
On January 20, CAS received assurances from NHTSA that any new FOIA on the subject could be processed fairly quickly if CAS limited the search to the Administrator’s office. CAS filed a new FOIA Request on February 25, 2015, limiting the search to the Administrator’s office. On March 25, CAS received an interim response extending NHTSA’s time limit to respond by 10 days, noting that CAS should expect a response by April 8. On April 9, after a CAS inquiry into the FOIA status, the NHTSA FOIA officer responded, “We are doing our best to get the information to you as soon as we can.” CAS received a response on May 7, 2015, stating “We have conducted a search based on the information you have provided and have not located any records responsive to your request.”