Board minutes 6.8.06

Virginia Coalition for Open Government
Minutes, Summer Board Meeting
Thursday, June 8, 2006
The Homestead
Hot Springs, VA

Present: Paul McMasters, president; Wat Hopkins, vice president; Ed Jones, secretary; Harry Hammitt, treasurer; Dorothy Abernathy; Lee Albright; John Edwards; Mark Grunewald; Connie Houston; Pam Luecke; Lawrence McConnell; Ginger Stanley, Virginia Press Association; Barrett Hardiman, Virginia Association of Broadcasters; Frosty Landon; Megan Rhyne. Present by speakerphone: Kathy Mohn; Rod Smolla; Tonda Rush, counsel.

President McMasters called the meeting to order at 3:35 p.m.
He commended Smolla for his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, concerning the prosecution of journalists.

Grunewald moved approval of the minutes of the spring board meeting in Roanoke, with Hammitt seconding. The minutes were approved unanimously.

Landon showed a video clip of a PBS program that focused on Albright’s determined questioning of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Edwards suggested that the tape be used in outreach efforts. Albright noted that a grand jury is continuing to look into these matters.

Discussion ensued on the Financial Report. Landon noted that the National Freedom of Information Council had approved a $6,000 grant for the November symposium that will be held the day after the 10th-anniversary dinner.

The proposed VCOG budget for 2006-07 includes a 5 percent increase in staff salaries. Fuel costs will be higher. Also, there will be a further reduction in VPA support. Even after withdrawals for operating expenses, the non-endowment reserves were down only modestly -- from $202,768 on June 30, 2005, to $195,550 on May 1, 2006. Knight Challenge receipts to date amount to $179,955 in cash and pledges. Landon suggested that VCOG request an NFOIC grant to pay for a omputer, software, a printer and a projector. Luecke moved, with Houston seconding, that the proposed 2006-07 budget be given preliminary approval, with the understanding that expenses will not exceed the amount in the proposed budget. The motion was approved unanimously.

McMasters reported on the Executive Committee’s discussion earlier in the day of plans for the 10th-anniversary gala. Board members agreed that a second table should not be set aside for each of the big sponsors; rather, these sponsors should be recognized in other ways. Also, it was agreed that VCOG board members who had made a $250 contribution to the Endowment Fund were entitled to one ticket to the gala, and that those who made contributions of $500 and above would be entitled to two tickets. Landon reviewed details of the Gala 2006 Operating Budget.

Discussion ensued on the Membership Report, which included four applicants -- three individuals and a law firm. Abernathy moved approval of the applications, with Mohn seconding. The motion passed unanimously.

The board discussed the upcoming work of the Search Committee, whose goal is the hiring of a new executive director (to replace the retiring Landon) no later than June 30, 2007. The board discussed such matters as salary and whether the position should be considered full-time or part-time. More discussion will occur at the board retreat, scheduled for the next day.

In Old Business, the board was updated on usage of the redesigned Web site. Also, a second printing of the FOIA Citizen Guide was noted.

Landon updated the board on legislative issues. SB 76, to which the Kaine administration proposed amendments late in the going, will be revisited next year. Amendments, written into separate legislation and expiring July 1, 2007, concern access to contractor bid information on multiphase transportation projects. A bill proposing FOIA exemptions for regional and local hospital authorities, which compete with private, non-profit hospitals, may resurface at the 2007 General Assembly. Landon will support the referring of such a bill to the FOI Advisory Council. Another matter sent to the Council concerns the release of salary information from the Virginia International Terminals. The board consensus was that this agency, supported by fees, should be considered public and subject to FOIA provisions.

Landon and Rhyne reported on the NFOIC meeting they attended in Indianapolis.

Rhyne reported on the Virginia Supreme Court privacy task force. After three meetings, there is still no agreement on access issues for court records, both paper and electronic.

Elizabeth Beck, a second-year law student at Washington & Lee, was introduced as the Richardson Legal Fellow for this summer.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:10 p.m.

Ed Jones