FOI Blog

FOIA shouldn't be us vs. them

This article originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Friday, March 18, 2016

Rhyne: FOIA requests shouldn't pit government against the public

Here’s a two-question test for you:

Question 1: Are government employees and public officials (a) always trying to hide something, or (b) of the purest hearts and noblest of actions?

Question 2: Is the “public” (a) always trying to stir up trouble, or (b) of the purest hearts and noblest of actions?

Meeting meeting myths head-on

A slightly edited version of this column originally ran in The Roanoke Times, Sunday, March 13, n2016

 

Rhyne: Meeting meeting myths head-on

By Megan Rhyne

Rhyne is executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

When we talk about the Freeom of Information Act, the tendency is to focus on the part of Virginia law that governs access to public records.

Of salary & critical infrastructure

UPDATE: All three bills noted below were approved Feb. 8 by the committee. In the process, SB 552, which started off dealing just with law enforcement, has now been changed to prohibit the release of names in connection with salary for all government employees. 

FURTHER UPDATE: By the time it passed the House, SB 552 had again been amended to remove the reference to all employees. The bill now solely refers to the names/training records of law enforcement.

VCOG's annual open government award winners

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government is pleased to announce the winners of its 2015 open government awards. The three winners represent the public, government and media, and all have worked on the same issue: access to court-case information.

FOIA losing in all three branches

An abbreviated version of this piece appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sept. 22, the Tidewater News on Sept. 23, the Free Lance-Star on Sept.

We don't need no stinkin' government email accounts

So here's a response given by the Port Authority spokesman when asked for email sent/received by a authority board member during a one-month period:

Mr. xxxx:

There's no confusion: this is a choice

Let’s clear up this so-called confusion about whether the personnel exemption (or any other exemption) is mandatory.

 

This “problem” arises in the context of the ABC refusing to release the results of the State Police’s investigation of the ABC officer who arrested UVA student Martese Johnson. The investigation clears the officer, but ABC is refusing to release the report.

Plenty to say about this public comment policy

In Portsmouth they're up in arms because the city council there voted unanimously to cut public comment speaking times from five minutes per speaker down to three minutes.

Another AG FOIA response

If you saw my post regarding the AG's $19,000+ estimate to fill a FOIA request, you'll be interested in this response from the AG's office, too.

The estimate in this response is for $40,000 and it suffers from the same problems noted in the previous post: a vague explanation for how the hourly salary rate was derived, and faulty logic that the exact same employees who search their records will also need to spend time reviewing their results (that is, many will have no responsive records).

That $19,000+ estimate

If you've read VCOG's daily newsletter or VPAP's VaNews for the day (or the original sources) you've seen stories about how the Office of Attorney General said it would cost more than $19,000 to fill a FOIA request for records relating to Sweet Briar's closing. If you haven't seen the document, you can view it below.

Two things caught my eye about this response: (1) the lack of detail for the average salary of the attorneys, as well as the quoted 1,950 hours number, and (2) the faulty logic underlying the third bullet point on page 2.

Pages