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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Transparency is great, said the politicians trying to limit transparency

Recent decisions have shown citizens that transparency is a myth propagated by politicians in order to placate the masses.

The news that the Supreme Court of Virginia made the decision to not provide records relating to the Virginia death penalty is the latest death knell for a law that was intended to make government more accessible, more “open.”

You don’t need to look far to see violations of the idea and the law of the Freedom of Information Act. Every week, sometimes every day, a report or other information is denied for release, often with an explanation that defies the law itself.

If the law in the Commonwealth can’t be followed regarding this, isn’t that the same as the justification for wanting the freedom of the information in the first place? If our government does not follow the very law written for these purposes, shouldn’t we wonder what other laws they have decided not to follow?

Virginia media fails to report State Police instruction to BBC reporters to delete footage taken in shooter chase

PRI reporters  Kierran Petersen  and James Edwards are reporting that two BBC journalists were told to either delete footage taken in the chase that found the shooter that killed two WDBJ-TV reporters early Wednesday morning, August 26, 2015, or they would confiscate the camera.

Will the Governor say this is also not available to the public, when this report comes out? And what of the media, covering their own grief, rightfully? Where are the media at in that such obvious violations of the law go unreported?

Strange days, indeed.

BBC reporters Franz Strasser and Tara McKelvey encountered a big obstacle in their coverage of a double slaying of journalists at a Virginia mall.

The two reporters were covering the manhunt of the suspected shooter when they were ordered to delete footage by police. On Wednesday night, Corinne Geller, the statewide public relations manager for the Virginia State Police, tweeted at Strasser.

https://twitter.com/VSPPIO/status/636700160710569987

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.

Former Fairfax police officer indicted, arrested in John Geer case

In 2013, John Geer was standing in his doorway when Officer Adam Torres shot and killed him. Former Officer Torres was indicted and arrested on Monday, according to Reuters:

The charges mark the first time in the 75-year history of the Fairfax County Police Department that an officer will face charges for an on-duty shooting, the Washington Post reported. The indictment comes amid a national debate on police use of deadly force.

Officers were called to Geer’s home in the Washington suburbs because of a domestic dispute. Witnesses have alleged that Torres shot Geer as he stood inside his doorway with his hands raised talking with officers. (Ian Sampson, Washington DC)

This case garnered national attention due to the nature of the incident.

The fact that in 75 years (the entire history of the department), no other officer in Fairfax County been charged in the murder of a citizen is a suitable backdrop to the nexus of this story; the ongoing violence, perpetrated on citizens who happen to be African-Americans, is worthy of serious discussion and awareness-raising in the general public.

It is long past time to look the other way while figures of authority and armed police violate the rights of anyone in this country. Not only for minorities of all kinds, but for everyone. This is the only legal way.

This is not to say that public displays of opinion and protest are not needed or effective, rather, that more of that is needed in an atmosphere where everyone is able to respect each other enough to actually solve problems.

That will never change.

Buckingham School Division never answered FOIA request from February 2014

According the attorney for Buckingham School Division, I have not been specific enough in my February 2014 request for information.

He claims that I had been inspecific in my request, although I have spelled it out many times. The school division also refused to take my request for information in a previous request over the phone.

All this adds up to the school’s attorney attempting to create a record of me having slandered or insulted Dr. Snead or himself. I am glad to resubmit my request to them, as I did today.

Further refusal and obfuscation, along with ‘no place I would rather see you in court’ (attorney’s words) is unexplained, and in my opinion unnecessary.

Yes, sir.

Reference: VA Code 2.2-3700, et. seq.

Oh, look: Jim Nolan of the RTD is still alive

Virginia Senate adjourns with no map and no consensus on Supreme Court nominee.

 

Jim nolan is alive
Jim Nolan is apparently alive, unless his ghost works at Richmond Times-Dispatch.

All this time, I thought he had died, since a year ago he told me he was sick and would get back to me.

Maybe it’s because I am “….not a journalist….” or some other stupid ego trip.