2023 Open Government Award Winner


VCOG names Laura Mollo of Richlands as 2023
Open Government Award Winner


CONTACT  Megan Rhyne | 540.353.8264 | mrhyne@opengovva.org

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government announced today that the 2023 Laurence E. Richardson Citizen Award for Open Government will go to Richlands Town Council Member Laura Mollo.

Three years ago, Mollo, a self-described soccer-mom who homeschools her young children, was concerned about the delay in emergency services in her town due to its unique 911 configuration; Richlands was the only town in the state that didn’t route its 911 calls to the county. She began filing FOIA requests to find out more.

IMG_5773.JPGAs so often happens with “accidental activists” like Mollo, once  she pulled on that one thread, many other threads opened up and she began to see patterns and practices that she believed were draining the town’s resources.

It wasn’t easy. Her FOIA requests were often resisted or only turned over grudgingly. She was disparaged and intimidated. The mayor resigned shortly after a police officer pulled her over on her way to a public meeting just so she would not attend to speak up and speak out.

But her persistence paid off and along the way, she started building a following. Citizens began seeing her point: regardless of whether they agreed with her position on the various issues, she was right to insist that they were all entitled to information, transparency and accountability.

In 2022, Mollo was appointed to a vacant seat on the Town Council where one of her first votes was to plug the town’s 911 system into the county’s. She won a permanent seat on the council in the November election.

“Laura exemplifies the very best of the citizen advocate,” says VCOG Executive Director Megan Rhyne. “She is smart, organized and determined. She was so steady and steadfast that people began to trust her. She encouraged them to demand and expect answers from those in power. Never once did she seek to benefit personally. She repeatedly demonstrated how her goal was to help her town and its citizens. People like Laura are why I find VCOG’s work to facilitate access to government records and meetings so rewarding. She’s the real deal.”

VCOG will recognize Mollo on FOI Day, March 16, during its annual conference in Charlottesville.

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government engages citizens to monitor the actions of their state and local governments as part of the democratic process. Founded in 1996, the coalition is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization that presses for access to public records, meetings and judicial proceedings.