Conference call board meeting

Virginia Coalition for Open Government

Board of Directors
September 1, 2011
Conference Call


The meeting was called to order at 10:03 a.m., by Dorothy Abernathy, President.

The following Board members were present: Dorothy Abernathy, President; Craig Fifer, Secretary; Paul Casalaspi, Treasurer; Ginger Stanley, VPA Representative; Lawrence McConnell, Immediate Past President; Lee Albright; Lucy Dalglish; Mark Grunewald; Dick Hammerstrom; Wat Hopkins, Waldo Jaquith; Frosty Landon; Matt Paxton; Jeff South; Michael Stowe. Also present was Megan Rhyne, Executive Director.

Upon a motion by South, seconded by Hammerstrom, the minutes from the March 25, 2011, meeting of the Board were unanimously approved by voice vote.

Rhyne gave an update on the planning for the event to honor Bob O'Neill, which is going well. The event will be held on Oct. 29, 2011, at the University of Virginia School of Law. Abernathy encouraged all members of the Board to attend the event, make a contribution, and/or solicit sponsors.

Rhyne reported that the event will benefit both the Coalition and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, although the Center has taken on most of the burden of organizing the event. Therefore, the Center has proposed that 75% of the first $26,000 of revenue from the event go to the Center, and the remaining 25% to the Coalition; 75% of the next $26,000 to the Coalition, and the remaining 25% to the Center; and half of any remaining revenue to each of the Coalition and the Center. The expenses for the event would be split evenly between the Coalition and the Center. Upon a motion by Dalglish, seconded by Hopkins, the revenue and expense arrangement was unanimously approved by voice vote.

Abernathy and Casalaspi presented a recommended budget for the Coalition for Fiscal Year 2011-2012. Upon a motion by Paxton, seconded by Grunewald, the Board unanimously approved the recommended budget by voice vote.

Abernathy reported that the Executive Committee has endorsed the recommendation of an ad hoc committee to update the Coalition's mission statement to read as follows:

"The Virginia Coalition for Open Government encourages citizens to monitor the actions of their state and local governments as part of the democratic process. The coalition is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization that presses for access to public records, meetings and judicial proceedings."

Upon a motion by Dalglish, seconded by Hammerstrom, the new mission statement was unanimously adopted by the Board, upon a voice vote.

Abernathy further reported that the Executive Committee has recommended that the Coalition's endowment be named for Frosty Landon. Upon a motion by Dalglish, seconded by Stanley, the Board unanimously approved the recommendation by voice vote. Landon abstained from the vote.

Rhyne reported that the Executive Committee will ask the Membership Committee to examine whether a new dues category (and how much) should be created for online-only news magazines and blogs. Rhyne also reported that the Executive Committee will ask the Nominations Committee to write up job descriptions for board officers, as well as a list of expectations for all board members.

Rhyne reported that the U.S. District Court in Norfolk has recently issued an opinion to resolve a conflict between federal and state law over whether rejected voter registration applications must be disclosed upon request. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs (students at Norfolk State University) and the federal law, that the applications must be disclosed. The Commonwealth is appealing the decision, and the Litigation Committee has unanimously recommended that the Coalition file an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs. Dalglish offered to have the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press write the brief and join with the Coalition and other like-minded organizations to submit it.

Upon a motion by Fifer, seconded by Hopkins, the Board authorized the submission of an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, subject to the approval of the Litigation Committee. The motion was approved unanimously by voice vote.

Rhyne reported that the Coalition's accountant has all the files needed to begin a financial audit for Fiscal Year 2010-2011, and that the preparation of the annual IRS 990 is proceeding on schedule.

Rhyne reported that Board members Albright, Hammitt, and Paxton have opted not to renew their terms on the Board. Paxton's successor has been appointed by the Virginia Press Association, and will be Jeff Lester of the Coalfield Progress. This will leave four vacancies on the Board, including one seat to be appointed by the Virginia Association of Broadcasters.

Rhyne reported that the Coalition's annual conference will take place on October 29, 2011, at Monticello, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (The event to honor Bob O'Neill will be held that evening at the University of Virginia School of Law.)

Rhyne reported that the Freedom of Information Advisory Council has established a subcommittee on access to salary data, and a subcommittee on access to criminal investigative records. The latter subcommittee asked the Council's staff to facilitate a stakeholder work group, which met on August 31 to discuss a proposal by the Virginia Press Association. Stanley reported on the work group's discussion, which she described as positive.

Rhyne reported that the Council's subcommittee on salary data has not seemed interested in restricting access to the names of all public employees in conjunction with salary data, but is looking at whether the current salary threshold in FOIA ($10,000) should be adjusted for inflation.

Rhyne reported that the records management seminar held April 27 in Roanoke was well received and produced $500 in net revenue for the Coalition. The seminar was organized by the Coalition and hosted by The Roanoke Times. A Fall seminar is slated for Nov. 10.

Rhyne described an idea to create a Citizen's Advisory Council, which would be an informal panel to provide feedback and suggestions on Coalition initiatives. The Board discussed whether the Council should advise the Executive Director and/or the Board, how the members would be selected, and other considerations. Abernathy asked Rhyne to present a proposal at the next Board meeting that would address these questions.

Stanley reported that the Governor's Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring met on August 31, and one of its committees recommended legislation to permit all public bodies to meet by electronic means. Stanley and Rhyne both expressed frustration that the Commission's work groups have not given proper notice of their meetings, and have not responded to simple requests for information about their work.

The next meeting of the Board of Directors will take place on October 29, 2011, in conjunction with the Coalition's annual conference at Monticello. [Note: This meeting was subsequently cancelled.]

There being no further business to come before the Board, Abernathy adjourned the meeting at 11:22 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Craig Fifer