Megan Rhyne's blog

Get into the FOIA spirit

Readers of this column know that I frequently encourage government officials and employees to adhere to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act as well as to the letter of it.

Shooting the Mug Shot Messenger

“Turn to the right!”

That’s what Holly Hunter’s character Ed yells out to her future husband H.I. in Raising Arizona as he poses for yet another mug shot because he can’t stop robbing convenience stores.

The private and the public relations

I got an inquiry last week from a police chief in a smallish town. He told me about a department employee who went through the grievance process after he was fired from his job. A grievance panel upheld the dismissal.

The employee got a copy of the panel's report, and the chief was saying that he knew he'd get media requests for the report. He wanted to know what his obligations were under FOIA. He was worried about violating the employee's privacy rights.

Ask your elected officials about open government

Every year, for every elected office, candidates are asked what their position would be on Policy X or Policy Y. Candidates also make promises about what they would do about Issue A or Issue B. And some try to assure voters that they would adhere to Principle M but not Principle N (or vice versa) if elected.

How often does Policy X or Y, Issue A or B, or Principle M or N refer to open government?

Not too often, right? But shouldn’t it?

Getting schooled on FOIA

Come Sept. 4, my rambunctious 5-year-old son will be joining the ranks of public school kindergartners across the state. Some school districts are already in the swing of things, but thanks to Kings Dominion, it will be Tuesday before the bell rings for all the schools.

School will be good for my little one. He needs the challenge of new material and the structure of a school day. He also needs someone other than his nagging mother to remind him that he is accountable for his behavior.

E-meetings down the primrose path

I've written before about electronic meetings, and I'll probably write about them in the future. But I'm writing about them today because I just spent three hours in a meeting to talk about e-meetings, and I've left there vexed.

First, a bit of background about how and why we have the rules that we do for electronic meetings.

Finding truffles among the acorns

Don't you just love when you're looking for one thing and you find something else really good instead? Like getting lost on the way to Aunt Kay's house and finding an out-of-this-world tacqueria? Or searching your coats for a set of lost keys and finding a crisply folded sawbuck in the pocket?

It's the same in the FOIA world.

Save me from my high horse


As an advocate, an advocate for access, I can climb up on a high horse about as quickly as any given cowboy.

The better part of discretion, however, usually persuades me that when it comes to the use of certain exemptions to withhold records or close meetings, I can’t stay on that horse but for so long. That’s because there are reasonable differences in the way exemptions are interpreted and because I don’t usually have all (or even enough) facts to know if the exemption is being used properly.

Surprise! We just spent your money

Surprises are great for birthday parties, but not at public meetings.

But surprises are what some citizens get when they’re at a meeting where suddenly a new item is added to the agenda without warning. Discussion may or may not ensue, a vote is taken and boom, that’s it.

Teaching our kids about open government

I read an article today about how Florida is launching a new test for middle schoolers to prove that they know as much about how their government works as they do about “Snooki & Jwoww.”


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