Current Headlines

Editorial: Keep the FOIA Council

The governor’s reform commission isn’t involved solely with major changes such as privatizing the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control system. It has also recommended the elimination or consolidation of several state boards and commissions. One of those hits close to home. Recommended for closure is an agency that is critical to smoothing government interactions with the public and ensuring that government is as open and transparent as possible.

Pennsylvania court bans the ban

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court outlawed City Council's ban on public comments at regular Council meetings, the Philadelphia Inquirer reporterd.

November e-newsletter is online

November e-newsletter is online. For past e-newsletters, click here.


Names, addresses & BOVs

A Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled Sept. 9 that the names home and business addresses of the Virginia Commonwealth University Board of Visitors must be released when requested under FOIA.

Another citizenship challenge

As reported by a Fox News affiliate in Ohio, the Midwest director of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network is challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee's Open Records Act. The act allows only Tennessee residents to request and obtain public records held by the state and its local governments. Virginia has a similar provision that is currently being litigated in federal district court.


VCOG is proud to sponsor a seminar for records managers called "Making Your FOIA Life Easier." Panelists from the Library of the Virginia, the FOIA Council and representatives from state and local government will be on hand to discuss tips and strategies for better records management: the better your records are organized, the easier FOIA requests are to fill. Click here to download the registration form. The seminar is Sept. 15, 10-12:30, at the Library of Virginia.

School FOIA policy

This came across my desk this morning from a fellow in Harrisonburg who has asked for salary data from the school district. When given the information, he was also directed to this policy for the school district. A FOIA request is public information, so there's nothing technically wrong with the policy. But when requests for salary data are met with hostility, two words leap to mind: BELL, CALIFORNIA

FOIA Loopholes

Roger Chesley, Virginian-Pilot: I don't expect local officials to make my life easy when I'm trying to collect information. It's my job to dig that stuff out. I also don't expect them to twist the law to keep details about the public's business from the public. The state's Freedom of Information Act gives authorities too many loopholes. Time after time, Virginians are deprived from learning about what's going on with their leaders and in their communities.

Citizens-only case

The 4th Circuit revived a lawsuit challenging Virginia FOIA's citizens-only provision. The lower court threw it out, saying the two of the plaintiffs didn't have standing and a third plaintiff named the wrong party as a defendant. The 4th Circuit reversed on the standing issue, saying the two plaintiffs can proceed with their challenge. The court agreed, however, that the Attorney General was not properly named as a defendant, so the third plaintiff's case was halted.

SSNs can be published

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled yesterday that privacy advocate BJ Ostergren cannot be constitutionally barred from publishing Social Security Numbers on her blog. The 3-judge federal panel upheld the lower court ruling, but also said that the lower court should have further extended its ruling allowing publication for well-known Virginians to include out-of-state individuals and private ones, too.


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