Current Headlines

Fines for FOIA violation assessed

A Giles County judge Friday morning fined the town of Glen Lyn and the town's manager for willfully withholding a public document that a watchdog group had requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Giles County General District Court Judge Gino Williams ordered the town of Glen Lyn and Howard Spencer, the town's manager, to pay a $1,000 civil penalty to the Literary Fund. The town and Spencer will also be required to reimburse the group that sued — Concerned Citizens of Giles County — $500 in legal fees. (Judges have been extraordinarily reluctant to impose fines.

How much did the President's visit cost?

During his three-hour sojourn through the Peninsula on July 13, President Barack Obama's motorcade traveled with escorts from state and city police and passed down roads blocked by the city Public Works Division to a gymnasium prepared by Hampton City Schools. Since the president's trip, the Daily Press has requested documents outlining the costs associated with making sure Obama's trip to the Peninsula went without a hitch.

Strong words on operating in the sunlight

The Daily Press takes several local governments on the Peninsula to task for not operating as transparently as they could: Serving on a board is not about being liked. It's a public trust, providing oversight of the entity in question and making sure it runs properly.

Talking State Integrity Survey

HearSay with Cathy Lewis podcast: In a country-wide investigation into each state's vulnerability to corruption, Virginia ranked in the bottom four. The State Integrity Investigation, a joint project by The Center for Public Integrity and Public Radio International, cited issues such as "public access to information," "lobbying disclosure," and "judicial accountability" as a few of the deciding factors in the Commonwealth's failing grade.

Does Virginia have a culture of openness?

Virginia received an "F" from the State Integrity Investigation for their susceptibility to corruption. The study, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, looked at the existence and implementation of several laws, including Virginia's FOIA, which in itself received an F. In a column, I argue that things aren't quite as dire as they sound; the overall culture of openness in the Commonwealth is fairly good. Or is it?

Daily Press article: school board didn't give proper notice

Attorney says school board didn't follow 10-day public notice rule, then school board won't hand over the attorney's opinion in response to a FOIA request.

Court record blackout

Virginia Lawyers Weekly reports this week that a reporter seeking evidence used in the York County capital murder trial of Daryl Atkins has been effectively denied access. A clerk said she could not release the material -- even though it is not under seal and even though there's a presumption that non-sealed evidence used at trial is open to the public -- without the judge's OK. The judge has sat on the reporter's request for access for months.

Washington ruling a win for FOIA requesters

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that the Washington State Patrol must hand over accident records requested by a cyclist severely injured on Seattle's Montlake Bridge, the state Supreme Court ruled April 12. Cyclist Michael Gendler suffered catastrophic spinal injuries when his front wheel was caught in the draw bridge grating.

Consultant's report runaround

VCOG Blog: When a local government is faced with an issue -- how to repurpose an old building, whether to implement block scheduling in the high schools, how satisfied the workforce is, where to locate a new government building -- they often hire an outside consultant. The consultant comes in, asks a lot of questions, observes what is and isn't going on, and prepares a report. What happens next isn't always so cut and dried.

Maryland bills on university research

The Maryland General Assembly is considering two bills that would put certain university professors' records out of reach of the state public information law. Inspired by the cases in Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan, most access advocates think the bills are a bad idea. As the head of New York's FOI office (a state agency) says, "Missing from the bills is a standard based on the likelihood or even the possibility of harm.


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