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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What does Charlottesville candidate Michael Signer have to say about transparency in government?

We may not know, because Signer’s Twitter feed is “private”, just like the information was about Martese Johnson and the ABC officers who bloodied him.

The report clearing the ABC officers was not released and the “prohibition” of release has become an embarrassment. Information is not “prohibited” from being released, it is in the control of the custodian of records.

It was finally released when the Governor claimed all “releases” had been granted. Personnel policy is once again being used to hide illegal actions.

Over to you, Mike.

signer twitter

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

Governor, Counsel misstate Virginia Code to cover up ABC report

Acting as if they had never heard of or seen the fact that information could be redacted, Terry McAuliffe and an official attorney both misstated the code concerning the release of information to the public on a radio show, Patrick Wilson of the Pilot has reported.

Governor claims exemption appropriate in ABC case

If the top officials in the state don’t know or would cover their employees by misstating code, what else would they do to keep secrets? Have they considered redacting this information?

Wilson reported that the two officials both said it was due to not being able to release personal information of the agents involved.

Department of General Services ignores FOIA request

You can request records by all these methods below, but to request records, write to their FOIA person. Also, FOIA does not apply to “general questions” asked of the agency, but you need not mention FOIA for it to be a FOIA request.

Got all that?

Requesting records from the Department of General Services:

Records may be requested by U.S. Mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone. FOIA does not require requests be in writing. The requester does not have to specifically refer to FOIA in order to request documents.

From a practical perspective, the Department of General Services may ask the request be put in writing to ensure there is a clear statement of the type of records being requested and to reduce the potential for misunderstanding the request.

The request must identify the records the citizen is seeking with “reasonable specificity.” This is a common-sense standard. It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records. The request must be specific enough for the records to be identified and located.

Requests must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA allows existing records to be inspected or copied. If a record does not exist, under FOIA, the Department of General Services is not required to create a ‘new’ record. FOIA does not apply when asking general questions about the work of the Department of General Services.

The requester may choose to receive electronic records in any format used in regular course of business by the Department of General Services. For example, a request for records maintained in an Excel database, the requester may elect to receive those records electronically, such as via e-mail or diskette, or receive a printed copy.

General Services may need to clarify the information being requested. Please include appropriate contact information in case the request for information needs clarification is extensive in the amount of documents being requested, and/or to coordinate delivery of the documents.

To request records from the Department of General Services, direct requests to:

Mailing Address:
Attn: FOIA Request
Julie Whitlock, Policy and Legislative Analyst
Department of General Services
1100 Bank Street, Suite 420
Richmond, Virginia 23219

E-mail Address:
FOIA_DGS@dgs.virginia.gov
In the e-mail subject line please put at least the following: FOIA Request

Phone: 804-786-3311
Fax: 804-371-8305

(emphasis mine)

Does the Governor have time to address this, or the Attorney General?

AG office claims no problem with prosecution from VDOT 15 years later

I think you are missing the point here.

(Suffolk News-Herald) Michael Kelly, director of communications for the Attorney General’s office, had this to say when asked why the office is pursuing cases so long after the original incident: “In each of these cases, demands for payment are made on the defendants prior to trial, so it wasn’t the first they were hearing about things.”