Megan Rhyne's blog

VCOG's 2009 FOI awards

Virginia Coalition for Open Government bestows open government awards

in citizen, media and government categories

FOIA basics: an editorial

When it comes to understanding both the letter and the spirit of Virginia's Freedom of Information law, John Edwards, editor/publisher of The Times of Smithfield is one of the state's best. So, it is of little surprise that he would have something to say about a couple of FOIA fights brewing in his home-county of Isle of Wight. Rather than explain the scenarios, or John's argument for why certain things are required by FOIA and certain things are not, I'll let John say it for himself. The following is an editorial he wrote for the Sept. 30 issue of The Times.

Tons of access-related stories today


This day in 1996: President Bill Clinton signs amendments to the Freedom of Information Act that help usher in a new age of digital democracy. The new law requires the government to make electronic documents available online.



Visiting schools in Prince William? Read this first.


Today at the FOI Advisory Council's meeting, a representative from the Prince William County Schools, and the county's outside attorney, announced their desire to ask for an exemption to FOIA in the upcoming session. (Actually, they asked for two, but only one is relevant here.)

Electronic messages are public records, too.

As reported by the Miami Herald,  The Florida Public Service Commission chairman ordered his agency to disable all text messaging on state-issued Blackberrys as questions continued about whether staff used the devices to skirt public records laws. The commission has been targeted for potential ethics violations.

Virginia officials would do well to remember that written electronic communications are to be evaluated for FOIA purposes in the same way that a piece of paper, letter, memo, card, etc. would be.

Anonymous jurors, part III

VCOG is not the only group opposing the rules advisory committee's proposal to make jurors anonymous in all criminal cases.

The ACLU of Virginia issued a press release that includes its legal counsel's comments filed in opposition.

So did the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Texas AG: open meetings laws are not unconstitutional

The Texas Attorney General filed a brief today in the federal court appeal of a district court ruling that said parts of Texas' open meetings law unconstitutionally infringed on the First Amendment rights of elected officials. In a press release, the Texas AG argues that the law furthers, rather than frustrates, fundamental First Amendment values. "Elected officials work for the people.

Not taking no for an answer

Recent FOIA "end-runs" show why a response of "no" to a request for records doesn't always put an end to the matter.

Hearing on manager's firing was short on sunshine

A Daily Press editorial faults Newport News City Council for its handling of hearing on city manager's fate. The meeting was open (at the manager's request), but it was held at a time inconvenient to most citizens (10 a.m. on a Tuesday). Then, after the manager's lengthy defense of his job and performance, the council immediately took a vote to fire him. No comment. No discussion.

Money Near Votes

Check out's new feature: Money Near Votes

It tracks campaign contributions to candidates as certain votes approach and shortly after votes are taken.


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