Sunshine Report, August 2013


The Sunshine Report: Online
Transparency news from the
Virginia Coalition
for Open Government
  August 2013

In this issue

Hanover proposal draws statewide criticism

Chopra to headline annual conference

AG and FOIA Council issue opinions.

Open government in the news

Coalition News

Recently on VCOG Blog

New board member
VCOG is pleased to announce the election of Paul Fletcher to our board of directors. Fletcher is the editor of Virginia Lawyers Weekly and the outgoing president of the Society of Professional Journalists Virginia Pro Chapter. Fletcher was elected to complete the term vacated by Tom Moncure.

FracturedChipWoodrum Legislative Internship
Join us in celebrating the legacy of Chip Woodrum by being a part of our effort to endow a student internship for each General Assembly session, where the recipient would learn about and participate in the legislative process. Please keep Chip’s memory alive in our hearts and minds, and in the minds of future generations of leaders.

Full text of FOIA
VCOG has posted the most current version of the Freedom of Information Act. Changes wrought by the 2013 General Assembly went into effect July 1 and are highlighted in italics on VCOG's website. Links to past laws are also available.

FOIA car magnets
VCOG FOIA magnets are available for $5 on VCOG's website. It's also easy to add a VCOG membership to your purchase. Once you have your magnet in place, post a picture of it to VCOG's Facebook page, or attach it to a tweet with the hashtag #vaFOIA. 

Stay up to date on access
Sign up for VCOG's daily listserv on access and First Amendment news from Virginia and accross the country. It's free!

For a steady stream of access-related stories and additional commentary and information, join the more than 800 people who are following VCOG on Twitter.

The AG on CHP law; the FOIA Council on Ft. Monroe committees

The Attorney General's office advised clerks of court around the state that the new law prohibiting release of applications for concealed handgun permits applies both to future applications and to those granted prior to the law's July 1 enactment. Furthermore, the July 12 opinion states, "to the extent information contained in an 'Order Book' references the name or other information of an individual subject to such an order, such reference must be withheld from the public." Suffolk Circuit Clerk Randy Carter, president of the Virginia Court Clerks' Association, said that would mean lawyers and title examiners, among others, would have to ask to look in the books. "It's going to be very cumbersome," he toldVirginia Lawyers Weekly.

Also in July, the FOIA Council advised Glen Oder, executive director of the Fort Monroe Authority, on the public body status of various committees used by him and the authority's board of trustees. The opinion reiterated that any committee designated by a public body to advise or perform a delegated function is itself a public body, regardless of how many trustees or citizen-volunteers are in its membership. The Council noted, however, that a committee created to advise the director only would not be a public body for meeting purposes, though its records would still be subject to public records laws.

Greetings, Friend of VCOG!

Hanover proposal draws statewide criticism

The Hanover Board of Supervisors passed a resolutionin mid-July aimed at making board interactions "more efficient" by changing the definition of how many members of a public body could meet without triggering FOIA's meeting rules. The proposal garnered swift response and widespread rebuke from local citizens and newspaper opinion pages across the state.

The resolution says the current restriction, which says that no more than two members of a body can talk about public business privately, "complicates the duty of senior staff personnel" and inhibits opportunities for "informal discussion" and "brain storming." The proposed solution is to allow any number of board members to meet so long as that number did not constitute a quorum. In Hanover, that would mean just one more person -- three -- could meet. On larger boards, however, like the UVA Board of Visitors, upwards of eight people at a time could meet privately.

To Hanover's credit, the county circulated a copy of the proposal to VCOG and others seeking comment. Our comments, as well as a letter from the Hanover board chairman rebuking an editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatchappear on VCOG's blog

Chopra to headline VCOG's  annual conference in Williamsburg

48804442Grab your tricorner hats and mob caps and hurry  to Williamsburg Dec. 6 for VCOG's next annual conference, where former White House and Kaine Administration information technology whiz Aneesh Chopra will be a featured speaker. Also on tap is a panel discussion featuring Dr. Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University and D.C. lobbyist Brian Schoeneman on the competing gift-disclosure legislative packages.

Stay tuned for specific schedules, registration and sponsoring information

Open government in the news

The Patrick County School Board and former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry heated things up in July when Terry crashed a closed session. The board then announced that Terry would be banned from future public meetings. Terry, who has been at odds with the board over teacher transfers, was later informed that a special prosecutor said he would not prosecute her under the "no trespass" order....Albemarle County came uder fire for destroying -- legally -- Depression-era land records complied by workers for the Works Progress Administration....One member of the Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors filed a FOIA request for the transcript of a board meeting during which he and another board member got into a heated argument over purchases made by the volunteer fire and rescue squad....The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled thatNew York Times reporter James Risen has to testify in the federal government 's case against an ex-CIA officialiolating the Espionage Act....Despite getting guidance from the Freedom of Information Advisory Council that the decision in McBurney v. Young should not change any agency's habits of providing records to out-of-state requesters, MuckRock has found thatagencies that used to process such requests are now denying them....A member of the James City County Board of Supervisors said that the closed meeting held by the board the night before on the county administrator's performance review strayed into issues not covered by the closed meeting exemptions. One other member came forward to agree, while two others said the issues, which included appropriate public comment period procedures, were proper....The Virginia Supreme Court says that they will no longer provide public access to tapes of oral arguments. "The new digital recording equipment is more sensitive so that the recordings now include any confidential comments any justice makes to another justice during the oral argument."....A general district court judge in Alexandria is denying camera access to a preliminary hearing in the murder trial against the man accused of killing a driver for "PBS NewsHour."....Fredericksburg City Attorney Kathleen Dooley (also a member of the FOIA Council) tried to put the brakes on a meeting between two city councilmembers and representatives of the Hagerstown Suns, the Washington Nationals Class A affiliate who are considering moving to Fredericksburg, over public notice deficiencies. At first the group said they would not hold the meeting, but then did anyway at one of the council member's offices. "I don't advertise when I meet with any developer," the other council member said.


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