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Mount Rushmore group seeks information

The Mount Rushmore Society has sued the National Parks Service seeking the release of information about Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

By Todd Epp

Northern Plains News Service

RAPID CITY -- America's "Shrine to Democracy" is in the center of a dispute over the freedom of information.

The Mount Rushmore Society, the private, non-profit organization that is the national memorial's leading concessionaire and friends group, filed a complaint in federal district court in Rapid City late Friday.

The society, which operates concessions and raises money for the restoration of the memorial, filed a federal Freedom of Information Act requesting the production of an evaluation of the primary facilities at the memorial operated by the society. The Condition Assessment/Comprehensive Condition Assessment includes information about the parking garage, the Loop Road, the parking facility developed landscape, fee collection facility, emergency power system and the septic system.

The complaint alleges that the NPS has improperly withheld the assessment report from the society.

"Without this information the plaintiff cannot provide the general public, millions who utilize the parking facility and related facilities which are contractually under the plaintiffs control, with the safe and sound condition and operationof those facilities," the complaint alleges.

The society further claims it has an immediate need for the information.

"(The society) has the responsibility for the care and maintenance of the parking facility and related facilities, and the safety of the public who utilized such facilities," according to the complaint. "It has the ongoing need to know of any issues about the structures under its care for the safety and welfare of public using such facilities, therefore necessitating an expedited decision on this matter."

The Mount Rushmore Society says the Park Service has failed to respond to its administrative appeal and improperly denying the report. The plaintiff requests the court order the defendant to provide the information immediately.

The complaint notes that the Park Service gave a brief summary of the assessment in February 2013 but has failed to give it the full report. CHM Government Services and Jacobs Engineering Services provided the assessment of the memorial's facilities.

The federal government has claimed that the assessment is within a FOIA exemption and does not have to be produced. The plaintiff says they have exhausted their administrative remedies and court action is appropriate.

The NPS has not yet filed a response to the complaint.