Friday, September 15, 2006
SF HIV Vaccine "Community" Panel: Citizens Barred, Minutes Withheld
No, it doesn't surprise me in the least that the head of HIV vaccine trials research in San Francisco is keeping citizens out of the supposed "Community" Advisory Board meetings and won't be sharing with the public any of her minutes or agendas in the near future.
What shocks me is that Dr. Susan Buchbinder, who has received millions in federal grants for her HIV research and expert advice, has been running her CAB without any real transparency for its entire existence. I believe the CAB came into existence 4-5 years ago, and not once has any of its meetings been publicized or open to the general public.
Not only that, apparently no one at the dozens of well-funded AIDS advocacy groups in town has yet to ask, on behalf of the community they claim to represent, for the CAB to allow community scrutiny and input into its activities.
I'll be responding to Dr. Buchbinder's efforts to bar the public from her CAB by contacting the appropriate people in the U.S. Senate and at the National Institutes of Health first thing Monday morning. Yes, complaints must be lodged in order to bring transparency and community involvement to San Francisco's full participation in HIV vaccine research.
Click here to read about the "private" CAB.
My recent exchange of emails with Dr. Buchbinder:
August 25, 2006
Dr. Susan Buchbinder
Director, HIV Vaccine Trials
San Francisco Department of Public Health AIDS Office
Dear Dr. Buchbinder:
Pursuant to the full provisions of the federal Freedom of Information Act, the state Brown Act and the local Sunshine Ordinance, I hereby formally request copies of the following documents:
1. Minutes of all meetings of the HIV vaccine trials Community Advisory Board;
2. All documents handed out to members of the CAB at the meetings.
I am seeking these records for the time period from January 1, 2004, through the date of this request.
As you may know, FOIA, the Brown Act and the Sunshine Ordinance require you to provide me with the requested documents within ten to fourteen days.
Furthermore, as a journalist reporting on HIV/AIDS issues for my blog, The Petrelis Files, which is at http://petrelisfiles.com/, I also ask for a fee waiver of all search and copying costs.
If you have any questions or need clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 415-xxx-xxxx.
A prompt response is respectfully requested and appreciated.
Dear Mr. Petrelis,
We are working towards meeting your public records request of August 25th. On behalf of the Department of Public Health, I am hereby notifying you of our need for a 14-day extension of time under Government code section §6253 c. The reason for the extension, as provided in section §6253 c: (b)Search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount ofseparate and distinct records included in a single request and; 3. Consult with another component of the agency or with another agency that has a substantial interest in the response to the request.
You will receive your information on a rolling basis as it is collected and all of it will be available by close of business day, September 19, 2006.
Dear Dr. Buchbinder:
I have checked your CAB web site for HIV vaccine trials and there is no information posted there about where and when the CAB meets. Can you please tell where and when the September CAB meeting will take place?
It is my understanding that our Director of Community Education, Matthew Florence, had already responded to your request about the time and location of the CAB meeting. In case you did not receive that information, the next CAB meeting will be held on Sept 19 at 6pm in room 330A at 25 Van Ness Avenue.
Dear Mr. Florence,
I have published your note on my blog regarding next week's CAB meeting. Thanks for sharing that public info with me. However, I notice on your site, http://www.helpfighthiv.org/board.htm , that despite federal sunshine laws, there is no information available about the CAB meeting next week and the agenda.
Can you please tell me why the HIV trials vaccine CAB in San Francisco is in apparent violation of federal open meeting statutes? Also, what is the reason why the CAB's agendas and minutes are not posted on your site?
Upon closer review of the status of our Community Advisory Board, it is the San Francisco Health Department's position that this is not a public meeting body as defined by Section 67.3 of the San Francisco Administrative Code. Therefore, I will not be producing the records you requested. Please note that CAB meetings are only open to CAB members.