Megan Rhyne's blog

No, Your FOIA Request Cannot Wait Until This Emergency is Over

"In the midst of a pandemic, it is reasonable to expect delays in processing public records requests and even incomplete responses, especially where public entities may not have access to physical files or other resources. But work-from-home orders have demonstrated that government can carry on remotely. New data, contracts and communications are being created digitally every day that would certainly fall under public access laws. Fulfilling FOIA requests can be grueling grunt work, but such labor should be deemed essential during the pandemic."

An imperfect, but temporary fix

Amid the honking horns, fainting leaders, plexiglass boxes and face mask fashion, it was easy to miss the governor's amendments to the budget bills that were approved Wednesday, unanimously by the House and with minimal dissent in the Senate, that allow public bodies to meet electronically during the time of a declared emergency "when it is impracticable or unsafe to assemble a quorum in a single location."

Time for transparency on COVID-19 hotbeds

Time for transparency on COVID-19 hotbeds

by Steve Stewart, Publisher of The Smithfield Times.
Originally published in The Smithfield Times

During a global pandemic, we tread lightly with criticism of pubic health professionals, who’ve served admirably and, in many cases, heroically while guiding society through the challenge of our lifetimes.

Yet, we can’t leave unchecked a recent lack of transparency that has stoked unnecessary fear and confusion in Isle of Wight County.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary efforts

NOTE: This column, by one of VCOG's founding board members, John Edwards, was originally published by The Smithfield Times. Edwards, the former editor of the Times, still writes a column for the paper, called In the Short Rows. Edwards was instrumental in setting up the FOIA Council and served on the council for his first several years.

 

Electronic meetings and democracy

Read the original editorial as it appeared in The Daily Progress, April 5, 2020.

Megan's note: I wish I had written this. It's perfect.

Opinion/Editorial: Democracy's health also must be shielded

Local governments are charting new territory in their move to electronic meeting forums.

Love & Sunshine Week in a Time of Coronavirus

It may be the height of irony during Sunshine Week -- the access and transparency community's annual love letter to open records and open meetings laws across our country -- to hear me say the rules of open government might not apply right now.

 

I've never been one to shy away from the soapbox, to point out inaccuracies, call out bad policy, question practices, or challenge interpretations. It would be fair (though not entirely accurate) to call me an absolutist: all access, all the time!

 

It's not supposed to be adversarial

FOIA requests by elected officials prompt backlash from fellow board members.

What’s behind increasing FOIA fees?

We are at a tipping point now because more and more requesters are seeing larger and larger bills. Without an understanding of the complexity of an email search, these charges appear not only arbitrary, but also punitive, a tool for discouraging requests.

Supreme Court rules place thumb on scale for confidentiality

"The rules are the latest salvo in an aggressive push to divorce the courts and the Office of the Executive Secretary from FOIA. In 2018, SB 727 would have removed them from FOIA. The bill was withdrawn by its sponsor, but then a circuit court judge ruled similarly some months later in a case that stemmed from a citizen request to see OES’ long distance telephone bills."

It's not a waste, it's the law

OK, this story makes me tetchy.

You can read the whole thing on The Southwest Times website or you can read it below, but here's the set-up: at a Pulaski County Board of Supervisors meeting, a supervisor and the county administrator engaged in an exchange over a projected slide showing the number of FOIA requests filed each year for the past nine years.  The total was 361, which equals 35.4/year, which equals fewer than 3/month.

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