The outrageous judiciary “opinion” about FOIA

sunshine week right to knowA judge has ruled that he feels that the complaint about the Pittsylvania Agriculture Board being in violation of Virginia FOIA was politically motivated more than an actual complaint.

“It is apparent this case is … more about politics than it is about legality,” Reynolds said. However, he did find the board violated FOIA by not giving proper notice of going into and coming out of closed session during its meeting April 8.
<blockquote>FOIA is being used as a “club” by individuals not happy with the board’s performance, Reynolds said.

What gave this judge that idea seems to be unknown, since the law itself does not anticipate such a ridiculous defense of the illegal actions of the board.

You might remember that citizens were effectively kicked out of a meeting back in April of this year, after the board claimed it was going into executive session. There was a raging thunderstorm at the time, and after waiting some amount of time, the citizens left without knowing what the outcome of the session was.

This is simply more excuse-making behavior of the judiciary and the executive branch to make excuses for the administrators of our public boards and commissions that are required by law to follow FOIA laws.

We have had many examples of this behavior and other behaviors recently, from the Martese Johnson case, to the recent Virginia Supreme Court ruling that effectively removed what was understood as the duty of the government to redact portions of records they deem to be under one of the exemptions provided for by law.

The Governor himself has given lip service all along about transparency, and it is striking how this flies in the face of his own administration surrounding these issues. From criminal investigations to materials in those investigations, even families of victims have been forced to sue their own government to obtain what otherwise should be an easy request.

It’s pretty simple really. Quit inserting your own opinions of the law and people’s actions surrounding it by legal means, or give up your job, because you are certainly not fulfilling your job description and promises you made when becoming a public servant.

After all, you promised us that you would abide by all the laws, not just the ones you like or agree with. That’s the real message here.

 

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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.

4 thoughts on “The outrageous judiciary “opinion” about FOIA”

  1. Thank you for covering this story. I had requested, through FOIA, the minutes of the April 8th meeting in question. The county attorney replied that it did not have them and that the Ag. Bd. was exempt from keeping minutes. Under oath, the Ad. Bd. chairman Jay Calhoun stated that the Ag. Bd. had always taken minutes and given copied to staff. Staff assigned to the Ag. Bd. are Greg Sides, Assistant Co. Admin. and Fred Wydner, Dir. of Ag. Dev. .Calhoun, also under oath, said he’s been told about 7 months earlier not to take minutes by the Ag. Dir. That would roughly coincide with my request for the April 8th minutes. It was stated that they continued to keep minutes regardless. Besides being a public body, additionally the Ag. Bd’s bylaws requires require they keep minutes.

    The judge accused us, the plaintiffs as using FOIA as a club. He then says, if there are any FOIA violations by the Ag. Bd. in 6 months, he will issue the mandamus we sought. And just who does he think will report the violations? The Ag. Bd. members, the County Attorney, Staff assigned to the Ag. Bd.? It will likely be the plaintiffs, with a FOIA club, which the judge will again ignore and kick the proverbial can down the road.

    Meanwhile, a powerful, 26 member, rogue Board, setting it’s own slate of officers, having its own agenda, will continue to set policy here in Pittsylvania County.

    Political, Judge? Damn right it is. And it not the Plaintiffs that are making it so.

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