New UVA rector urges breaking the law about open government – avoid email to ‘stay off the front page’, Augusta County Administrator had said the same thing

New UVA Rector Bill Goodwin was only the latest Virginia public official to instruct people to not use email, unless you want to “…be on the front page.”

This is only several days after it had been revealed that a sheriff in Virginia illegally covered up missing money that was in his office’s possession but was missing. The accrediting organization that examines law enforcement operations called the Augusta County Sheriff and asked him to report to a meeting to talk.

Press accounts claim another county official also made remarks about official emails.

The News Leader reports some of the shocking details:

But although Fisher and investigators apparently still don’t know where the cash went — the money had been seized from a 2012 drug arrest and held in the evidence room safe — the sheriff did know it was gone.

He had known for weeks.

Let that sink in for a moment. The rest of us are dealt harshly with or otherwise harassed by law enforcement when we are suspected of lying or otherwise breaking the law, but the sheriff should be okay, according to someone, I would guess.

In the words of the accreditation organization after the audit (without the knowledge of missing cash) said: (and I am not kidding)

“This agency clearly characterizes the embodiment of integrity and commitment to professionalism, from the newest deputy to those in the highest administrative ranks to include Sheriff Fisher…” (as reported in the article)

The evidence room also was found to be in compliance. “The security for the evidence room is excellent,” the report said.

Courtesy of a wonderful article from Brad Zinn of the News Leader, this gem from the public official responsible for meeting FOIA requests with responses that resemble the requirements of the law, Augusta County Administrator Pat Coffield:

Pat Coffield, Augusta County administrator, said he believes the lack of documentation about public business was by design, intended to foil media scrutiny protected by state open access laws.

“(The Sheriff’s Office) learned a long time ago never to put anything in an email you don’t want to see FOIAed,” Coffield wrote in an email to The News Leader. “We have all learned from your past FOIAs.”

What’s the Republican saying for an onerous restriction in law enforcement they dreamed up? “If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” (Think drug testing) If you are purposely not documenting conversations you have with other public officials, that subverts not only the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law as well.


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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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