Opinion: Is FOIA law in Virginia treated as a suggestion?

After reading this article about the Pittsylvania Agriculture Board and the lawsuit brought against them by citizens for FOIA violations, it has become clear that many jurisdictions in Virginia are treating Virginia FOIA as a suggestion rather than the law of the land.

Think about this. Since 2007, when the Agriculture Board in Pittsylvania County was created, not a single set of minutes have been taken for a unit of county government.

Where is the oversight? Where are the officials who are bound to learn and know the law within two weeks of being elected or appointed?

This is the norm in Virginia. Politicians shrug their shoulders and say they resent the ethics laws. There is no prosecution of certain crimes that benefit politicians and officials of jurisdictions all over Virginia, but also no lessening of the restrictions and exceptions to the Virginia FOIA.

Politicians seem to think that if they obstruct FOIA reform long enough, people will give up or be stymied in their efforts to hold their local or state governments accountable.

Imagine for a moment if other laws in this Commonwealth were so routinely flaunted and ignored as worthless and worse yet, not even understood by the very people they apply to or the Judiciary.

FOIA is not a suggestion, and there is enough rampant abuse to make a month’s worth of stories every day about it. I have plenty of opportunity, a blessing of sorts, when I find that every jurisdiction I look at has little or no regard for FOIA laws, and don’t even instruct their employees after the fact.

 

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Published by

Mark Brooks

Independent Journalist/Photographer --- Retired Land Surveyor originally from Colorado. USN Veteran. Involved as a citizen and journalist in politics and open government locally and sometimes statewide. Interests: photography, music, justice and equality for everyone.

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