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Upcoming for Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week is an effort spearheaded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Spanning the week of March 16, which is the birthday of James Madison, the patron saint of open records, the effort seeks to highlight the ways in which public records figures into our everyday lives.

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government is the Virginia coordinator for Sunshine Week.

Below are a few things on tap for this Sunshine Week.

Closed meeting on coach fumbles

The school board for Williamsburg and James City County met Tuesday in closed session to discuss a personnel issue.

Last fall, a successful high school football had been accused last fall of mistreating a player during practice. The athletic department's investigation cleared the coach, but the parent who complained took the matter to the administrative officers, where the coach got word that he was about to be fired. He resigned instead, effective at the end of the season. The coach said recently that he tried to rescind his resignation but that administrators wouldn't let him.

FOIA harassment revisited

Last year, thanks in large part to some stirring testimony from two VCOG members, a bill that would have allowed government to sue a citizen that the government felt was harassing it with FOIA requests was sent to the FOIA Council for further study.

The discussions in those FOIA Council study committees was thorough and often impassioned. Ultimately, there was no agreement and the full FOIA Council declined to recommend any measures to the 2011 General Assembly.

Comstock's 2

McLean delegate Barbara Comstock is introducing two bills we find particularly noteworthy.

One is called the Government Transparency Act and it attempts to create a website that would allow users to search for and aggregate various information, like

Mandatory designation

An interesting FOIA bill was filed yesterday by Del. Bob Marshall. In HB1722 Marshall proposes to add a requirement that

Voting history bill

Del. Jim LeMunyon and Del. Mark Keam have again introduced a measure to put legislators' voting histories on the legislature's website. The point is to make voting histories on bills, amendments, even committee votes, easily accessible and searchable.

Here's what the two delegates had to say in a press release issued yesterday:

Names and salary

Sen. Steve Martin of Chesterfield has introduced SB 812, which would prohibit the disclosure of a public employee's name when releasing information related to that employee's salary or reimbursements.

Here's what the bill says:

 

2.2-3705.8. Limitation on record exclusions.

Public notices: a PUBLIC issue

The Roanoke Times wrote this editorial today saying that governments should post notices of special public meetings in the newspapers, not just on government websites, libraries or text alerts.

First, a clarification. We're talking here about those statutorily mandated public hearing meetings, like the ones held before certain zoning decisions are made, or for school redistricting, etc. We're not talking about the ordinary-course-of-business meetings of councils, boards or commissions.

Don't copy this clerk

I had a citizen-journalist contact me today about a clerk in a rural county who was refusing a request to copy an arrest warrant.

The warrant had already been executed and it had not been sealed (nor was there any pending motion to seal it). The clerk simply he/she would not make copies. The citizen was allowed to look at the warrant, but as soon as he started to make handwritten notes about the warrant, “they took the documents and said writing notes was copying” and thus prohibited.

Reform, but not in a good way

The Freedom of Information Advisory Council found itself on a list no state agency wants to be on: a list suggesting that various boards and commissions be shuttered.

The list, which also includes recommendations for consolidating other boards, has been compiled by a subcommittee on Governor Bob McDonnell’s Government Reform Commission.

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