VCOG board minutes Nov. 16, 2006

Virginia Coalition for Open Government
Minutes, Fall Board Meeting
Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006
Library of Virginia
Richmond, VA

Present: Paul McMasters, president; Wat Hopkins, vice president; Ed Jones, secretary; Harry Hammitt, treasurer; Dorothy Abernathy; Lee Albright; Lucy Dalglish; John Edwards; Connie Houston; Pam Luecke; Lawrence McConnell; John Mohn; Robert O'Neil; Matt Paxton; Don Richards; Rod Smolla; Peter Easter and Barrett Hardiman, Virginia Association of Broadcasters; Frosty Landon; Megan Rhyne; Tonda Rush, counsel; Jesse Todd, board member-elect.

President McMasters called the meeting to order at 2:45 p.m.

Easter moved approval of the minutes of the summer board meeting in Hot Springs, with McConnell seconding. The minutes were approved unanimously.

Discussion ensued on the Financial Report. Landon noted that $210,000 has been raised in contributions and pledges to the endowment, exceeding the $200,000 total that will be matched by the Knight Foundation. Expenses for the gala dinner will be $20,000 to $25,000, requiring a dip into the $175,000 reserves for $10,000 to $15,000. Eleven tables at the gala were purchased. Participants will total about 150.
Guests will include the lieutenant governor, attorney general and, representing the governor, the secretary of the commonwealth.
Landon also noted that he had revised the current budget to include line items for Knight-related funds.
Dalglish moved approval of the financial report, with O'Neil seconding the motion. It was passed unanimously.

On other financial matters, Landon noted that the Virginia Press Association Board of Directors had agreed to restore $20,000 in grants to VCOG for the 2006-07 year. Landon and other board members had requested reconsideration of an earlier board decision to reduce VPA support for the year.
Also, Landon recommended that a second deposit of $50,000 not be made to the endowment account, but be left as part of the reserves, making those dollars more accessible.

Landon congratulated Rhyne for her work on the annual conference and gala dinner. Ken Paulsen, the editor of USA Today, will be the speaker at the dinner.

Discussion ensued on the Membership Report, which included three applicants - Jack Wilson of Hunton & Williams; the League of Women Voters in Loudoun County; and Grassroots Solutions of Stephens City. The applicants were approved unanimously.

Landon apprised the board of the various awards that would be made at the gala that evening.

Discussion ensued on the Nominating Committee report. Nominated as officers for terms beginning Jan. 1 were: Wat Hopkins, president; Dorothy Abernathy, vice president; Ed Jones, secretary; and Harry Hammitt, treasurer. The nominations were approved unanimously.
Nominations for three-year board terms beginning Jan. 1, which will be submitted to the membership meeting the following day, include: Lucy Dalglish, Mark Grunewald, Chip Woodrum and, to succeed Connie Houston, Tonda Rush. (Note: These nominees were elected the following day at the membership meeting.)
Representing VAB, Don Richards will fill the remainder of Kathy Mohn's term, which runs to Dec. 31, 2007. A nominee to fill Richards' 2007-09 term will be announced later. John Moen's term ends Dec. 31, 2006.
Representing VPA, John Edwards will serve another term, from 2007 to 2009. Jesse Todd, editorial page editor of the Daily Press, was named to a three-year term succeeding Marvin Lake.
Since Paul McMasters will be leaving the board in 2007, discussion ensued on a bylaw change that would allow the board to name interim, at-large board members. Notice will be given so that the board can act on that proposal at its March meeting.

Chair Wat Hopkins reported on behalf of the Search Committee for a new executive director. He noted that the Executive Committee had endorsed a recommendation that the Search Committee advertise for applicants for the position, while also seeking proposals from association management companies. A mid- to late-January deadline will be set for applications. A recommendation will be made to the full board.

Landon noted that VCOG had received $2,500 of a requested $6,000 grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition to support computer needs.

Discussion ensued on a proposal by clerks of the court to exempt remote access to land-record databases from the FOI Act. Clerks apparently feel this resource has considerable value, and do not want to give it away for free to vendors.
McMasters noted that the Executive Committee recommended that VCOG oppose this exemption.
McConnell argued that the exemption would set an unfortunate precedent, and said the key question should be how the data are arranged.
McMasters expressed concern that the exemption was a back-door way to question the motives of those seeking public information.
O'Neil moved that the board go on record as being opposed to this proposed exemption. Edwards seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.

Landon offered a report on several other legislative matters, including VDOT's continued insistence that information on public/private initiatives, such as contractor bids, be exempted as long as work on multiphase projects is not complete, and new proposals to test criteria for electronic meetings for regional public bodies.

It also was noted that a federal circuit court had ruled that the Delaware residency rule on FOI requests was unconstitutional. Virginia is one of six states that have such a rule.
Edwards moved, with McConnell seconding, that VCOG ask Virginia legislators to repeal the residency rule.

McMasters offered closing comments, as he completed his final board meeting as president. The board offered him a hearty round of applause.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Ed Jones