FOI Blog

Public notices = Public access

There are some local government actions that the legislature has said are important enough that they must have a special hearing. Often a public comment period must be included, which is not the case for ordinary public meetings.

For decades, the legislature has required that notice of these special hearings (called "public notices") be published in the local newspaper because that has been the best way to reach the most people, and the biggest cross-section of any given community.

Why we oppose efforts to close off access to CHPs

The sponsors are different each year, but the goal is the same: prohibit the disclosure at local courthouses of concealed handgun permit applications (CHPs).

VCOG has opposed the bills in past years and it will again this year. I know a lot of people will disagree with VCOG. Some may agree. As an open government advocacy group, this issue for us is about access to government records. There's no other agenda here.

Not ready for their close up?

Here's what Virginia's FOIA says in section 2.2-3707(H) about recording meetings:

Any person may photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open. The public body conducting the meeting may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings, but shall not prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing, filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open.

FOIA before & after the election

Tuesday is Election Day. All 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for grabs (well, far too many of the seats are not up for grabs because redistricting has put many senators and delegates into "safe" districts). Throw in all the races for local boards of supervisors, town councils, school boards and constitutional officers, and we will easily see hundreds of new faces in elected office come November 9.

Virginia records for all

(This article appeared on the McLean Patch site Monday, Oct. 24, 2011)

There's a court case being heard Tuesday in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Anyone who's followed the Virginia Coalition for Open Government over the years has heard me talk about McBurney v. Young: the case challenging Virginia law that says Virginia FOIA is for Virginians. It's not for Tennesseeans or North Carolinians, or, mon dieu, for Californians.

An embarrassment of riches?

A subcommittee of the Virginia FOIA Council is still studying what to do with Sen. Steve Newman's bill introduced in 2011 and sent to the council for study. As originally drafted, the bill would prohibit the name of a public employee to be released in connection with that employee's salary data.

In Virginia, salary data and names are required to be disclosed. Salary is not a personnel issue, in other words. The requirement also says that it does not apply to anyone making under $10,000.

What is the intended use of FOIA?

I'm incredibly proud of the Cavalier Daily for wading into the controversy surrounding UVA's response to the American Tradition Institute's request of a former professor's email on climate change.

The power to enforce

Much attention was recently directed at the governor's Government Reform Commission's revelation that it held a series of closed-door workgroups to discuss possible recommendations. Last year the commission used public committees to consider recommendations, so when the commission's staff announced in April that it would use the workgroup format, I don't think anyone thought they would be anything other than open to the public also.

Back-channel business

I received a disturbing note this week from an anonymous state government employee. This person contacted me about how individuals in his/her agency were using gmail accounts and Dropbox-type clouds to discuss public business.

Reform the Reform Work Groups

by Megan Rhyne

(This article originally appeared in the Times-Dispatch, Sept. 8, 2011)
(Also note: the day before the article appeared, the Governor said that work groups in which 3 or more commission members participated would be open; no word on whether groups with fewer members would be open, too.) 

 

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