Another AG FOIA response

If you saw my post regarding the AG's $19,000+ estimate to fill a FOIA request, you'll be interested in this response from the AG's office, too.

The estimate in this response is for $40,000 and it suffers from the same problems noted in the previous post: a vague explanation for how the hourly salary rate was derived, and faulty logic that the exact same employees who search their records will also need to spend time reviewing their results (that is, many will have no responsive records).

That $19,000+ estimate

If you've read VCOG's daily newsletter or VPAP's VaNews for the day (or the original sources) you've seen stories about how the Office of Attorney General said it would cost more than $19,000 to fill a FOIA request for records relating to Sweet Briar's closing. If you haven't seen the document, you can view it below.

Two things caught my eye about this response: (1) the lack of detail for the average salary of the attorneys, as well as the quoted 1,950 hours number, and (2) the faulty logic underlying the third bullet point on page 2.

Report's recommendations are universal

There is a pretty remarkable open government story coming out of Memphis this week. It concerns a report commissioned by the city’s mayor to review the city’s public records system.

The Plough Foundation prepared the report after interviewing more than two dozen city employees, news media representatives and open government advocates.

The report makes findings specific to Memphis within the context of Tennessee’s Public Records Act and it makes several broad recommendations, with sub-recommendations under each.

The working papers exemption is a big ol' mess

There’s a bill on offer in the Michigan legislature. As proposed by a Democratic representative from Grand Rapids, the bill would make the state’s Freedom of Information Act applicable to both the governor and the state legislature.
      I wish the Michiganders well. Getting state lawmakers and a governor to voluntarily expose themselves to the glare of the open records light is an uphill battle, no doubt. It’s one of those issues that lawmakers have trouble seeing the forest of good government through the trees of their own self interest.

Rules v. spirt (not to mention fairness)

Last week, the Roanoke Times published a short opinion piece by VCOG's Chip Woodrum Legislative Intern, Zhina Kamali. It's republished here on our website.

Kamali wrote about her first encounter in a General Assembly committee meeting where bills were killed by an unrecorded voice vote. Among other things, she noted how members fairly shouted their ayes and nays, which led her to wonder, "Are we at the GAB or at a concert where the band with the loudest crowd wins?"

If a vote isn't recorded, does it make a sound?

The following was written by Zhina Kamali, VCOG's first Chip Woodrum Legislative Internship and was published in The Roanoke Times on Feb. 16, 2015.


By Zhina Kamali

Each day I am at the General Assembly Building I think I have seen it all. And each day something new comes up that surprises me even more than the last.

Open data's promise

IN EARLY December, President Obama announced a series of measures aimed at closing the gap between citizens and law enforcement. One of those measures was a plan to distribute $263 million in funding for agencies to purchase body cameras that can be used during police interactions with citizens.

Conversations lead to innovation

This is a column about conversations. 

Give the people what they want

I went to the book store today. I like browsing, though sometimes I’m looking for something in particular. Like today. I’d heard there might be a book about a Vietnamese artist who painted complicated still lives of cats playing tennis next to the Panama Canal. I just had to have it!

A beautiful stack of best sellers greeted me at the door. They were very nice, and I sure did like knowing they were there, but I moved on to the information desk because I didn’t know whether to look for my book in the section for artists, animals, sports or history.

Let's not make this harder

Lately I’ve been seeing some pretty novel reasons why records cannot be provided to requesters. These aren’t in the same category as conflicting interpretations of exemptions, where one says a document is protected by an exemption and another claims the exemption doesn’t apply.

No, this is in the way records are delivered or not delivered, as the case may be.

The most recent example comes to via Hawes Spencer, formerly of The Hook and now doing reporting for WTVF radio.


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