VCOG Board of Directors meeting 03-23-12

Virginia Coalition for Open Government

Board of Directors

March 23, 2012

Virginia Press Association Headquarters

Glen Allen, VA

The meeting was called to order at 1:03 p.m., by Dorothy Abernathy, President.

The following Board members were present: Dorothy Abernathy, President; Craig Fifer, Secretary; Paul Casalaspi, Treasurer; Ginger Stanley, VPA Representative; Jonathan Williams, VAB Representative; Lucy Dalglish; Olga Hernandez; Wat Hopkins; Frosty Landon; Jeff Lester; Tom Moncure. Also present was Megan Rhyne, Executive Director.

Abernathy introduced new Board member Jeff Lester, News Editor of the Coalfield Progress.

Rhyne referred the Board to the list of current Board member committee assignments, and asked the members to make any necessary updates.

Rhyne reported on the 2012 regular session of the General Assembly. She said that although the session required a significant investment of time due to the number of bills related to public notices, the Coalition was not caught in the middle of any contentious debates. All of the public notice bills were either defeated (HB222, HB773, HB812, HB1193, SB664), or were amended to make them less objectionable (HB234, HB623, SB566).

There were four bills passed that will amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, including one to exempt certain tax investigation information (HB275), one to exempt the work cell phone numbers of firefighters and emergency medical technicians (SB193), and one to permit members of public bodies to attend closed sessions of the subcommittees of those bodies (HB480). Rhyne reported that the fourth bill (HB141), which exempts correspondence to public bodies on topics not related to the transaction of public, will not materially change current law. Rhyne said she has written Gov. McDonnell to ask that he decline to sign the bill on the grounds that it is confusing and unnecessary.

Rhyne further reported that two bills regarding electronic meetings (HB1105 and HB1149) were referred to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council for study. She also said that a bill was passed to expand the list of those who are permitted to receive lists of persons who voted in elections (HB1118), and to reduce the period of time before which various vital records may be released (SB660).

Stanley reported further on the Virginia Press Association's efforts regarding public notice bills. Dalglish reported that, despite lobbying efforts by advocacy groups, the American Bar Association has adopted the position that public notices should be placed online and not in newspapers.

Upon a motion by Casalaspi, seconded by Hernandez, the minutes from the September 1, 2011, meeting of the Board were unanimously approved by voice vote.

Rhyne reported that the event to honor Bob O'Neill, held on Oct. 29, 2011, at the University of Virginia School of Law, was a success. The event raised approximately $24,000, of which the Coalition received $6,000 and the remainder went to the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Rhyne further reported that the audit of the Coalition's accounts has been completed, and that the Endowment Fund balance is back over $500,000. The Coalition currently has 171 members. Six seats on the Board of Directors are currently vacant, including two representatives of the Virginia Association of Broadcasters and four at-large seats.

Rhyne reported that the Coalition held its annual conference on October 29, 2011, at Monticello, and a records management seminar on November 10, 2011, at Gannett's headquarters in McLean. Rhyne is working to arrange another workshop in Richmond and in Williamsburg.

Rhyne further reported that the National Freedom of Information Coalition has awarded a $5,000 grant to VCOG to assess the status of access to local government budget information. Dalglish reported that additional NFOIC grant funds may be available, particularly to be used to match contributions from other sources.

Rhyne reported that the Coalition will have an intern again this summer, supported by the Laurence Richardson endowment. Rhyne interviewed seven candidates and selected Peter Dansie.

Rhyne also referred to her extensive report of activities, which was distributed to the Board.

Lester asked how many of the Coalition's 171 members are newspapers, and Rhyne replied that 63 newspapers are members. Lester asked what the dues structure is for newspapers, and Rhyne replied that it is a sliding scale based on the newspaper's size.

Casalaspi, treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee, reported on the Coalition's current accounts. He noted that the Coalition made a profit on the October conference and the November records workshop.

Upon a motion by Stanley, seconded by Moncure, the audit of the Coalition completed on September 28, 2011 (as of June 30), was unanimously approved by voice vote.

Rhyne led a discussion about the timing of the 2012 annual conference, and the consensus of the Board was that the event should take place in late September or early October.

Rhyne reported that she is ready to launch the Partners Advisory Panel that she had previously described to the Board. Upon a motion by Landon, seconded by Dalglish, the Board endorsed the creation of the Panel unanimously, by voice vote.

Rhyne asked the members of the Board to contribute suggestions for new Board members, new donors, the local government budget assessment that the Coalition will conduct, and the dates and locations of future meetings of the Board. There was some discussion by the Board on these topics.

The next meeting of the Board of Directors will be announced at a later date.

There being no further business to come before the Board, Abernathy adjourned the meeting at 3:12 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Craig Fifer