Sunshine Report for December 2013

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

In this issue

VCOG's annual conference line-up

FOIA Council breifs

Open government in the courts

Open government in the news

Recently on VCOG Blog

Coalition News

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.

THANK YOU to those who have contributed as sponsors to VCOG's annual conference.

  • Alpha-Omega Wealth Management
  • Associated Press
  • Christian & Barton
  • The City of Williamsburg
  • Concerned Citizens of Giles County
  • Essex Sunshine
  • Johnny Timbers Tree Service
  • Judy For Wason Center for Public Policy
  • Just Cause Foundation
  • Quilts Unlimited
  • Society of Professional Journalists - Virginia Pro Chapter
  • Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership
  • The Virginia Gazette
  • Virginia Lawyers Weekly
  • Virginia Public Access Project
  • Virginia Trial Lawyers Association
  • The Virginian-Pilot
  • Woods Rogers
  • World Media Enterprises
  • WTVR-3, Richmond
  • WWBT-12, Richmond
And the following individuals: Bruce & Jody Bennett, Paul Casalaspi, Clyde Christofferson, Amy Carter Day, Joe Fuentes, Mark Grunewald, Waldo Jaquith, Eileen McAfee, Judy McClosky, Megan Rhyne, Rebecca Rhyne, Michael Stowe, Mary Taylor and Dawn Vermette.

If you'd like to donate, go to our registration & donation page.

   $ 8,000  BY  DECEMBER  6!  

AP Day at the Capital
VCOG Executive Director Megan Rhyne will appear with Virginia Press Association director Ginger Stanley, FOIA Council director Maria Everett and Dick Hammerstromof the Free Lance-Star on a FOIA panel at AP Day at the Capital. Rhyne will also be on a panel discussing ethics and gift disclosures with Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William), Roz Helderman of the Washington Post,Nicholas Kusnetz of the Center for Public Integrity and moderated by Bob Holsworth. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe will speak at lunch.

FOIA Council briefs

In a written opinion to Mike Mather, a reporter for WTKR in Norfolk, the Freedom of Information Advisory Council weighed in on the public availability of date of birth information held by law enforcement. One point stressed by the council was that the recodification of the criminal law records section that went into effect earlier this year did not change the substantive terms of access to DOB information or most any other law enforcement records, for that matter. The opinion isAO-08-13.

A council workgroup met in November to discuss how access to geographic information systems (GIS) data works with FOIA. Those working with government GIS noted how, especially in the age of Google, they view the information as data sets that should be freely (when possible) shared. The stakeholders agreed that rather than seek legislative changes, the council would draw up a guidance document.

Another workgroup met to consider draft legislation prepared by Council staff regarding FOIA's application to at least some of the State Corporation Commission's records. Well into the meeting, the SCC announced that it was working on its own legislation that would reside in a different part of the Code of Virginia, not in FOIA. Council staff nonetheless prepared another draft intent on addressing concerns offered by industry representatives and access advocates. For a thorough write-up of the various positions staked out at the meeting, go to Open Virginia Law.

The full FOIA Council will meet Thursday, Dec. 5, at 1:30 p.m.

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FlyerNObackgroundVCOG's 2013 Annual Conference

Register today for VCOG's annual conference, DECEMBER 6 from 10AM to 4PM at the Williamsburg Community Building (click for map).

Check out our fantastic lineup of panels and speakers:

10am: Welcome from VCOG’s president Craig Fifer and Williamsburg City Manager Jack Tuttle

10:15: PANEL 1: Lax: Are Virginia’s laws as bad as they say?

  • Sarah Bryner, Center for Responsive Politics
  • Vivian Paige, Political observer
  • Gordon Witkin, Center for Public Integrity

11:30: Featured Speaker #1Hon. Aneesh Chopra, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Virginia Secretary of Technology

1:15: PANEL 2: The Virginia Way: Time for a new path?

  • Benson Dendy, Vectre Corporation
  • Waldo Jaquith, Open Virginia
  • Gordon Morse, Political observer
  • Ginger Stanley, Virginia Press Association

2:30: Featured Speaker #2: Hon. Bill Bolling, Lt. Governor of Virginia

3:00: PANEL 3: Reform: What does the future hold?

  • Ernie Gates, Stars & Stripes
  • Quentin Kidd, Christopher Newport University
  • Brian Schoneman, Bearing Drift
  • Julian Walker, Virginian-Pilot

VCOG will also present our 2013 open government awards for citizens, media and government.

$30 for VCOG members; $40 for non-members. Price includes lunch.


Open government in the courts

A federal judge in Danville denied the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors' request to postpone implementing the judge's ruling that sectarian prayers before council meetings were unconstitutional. The board had asked for the stay pending the outcome of a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, which asks if the practice of offering pre-meeting prayers by local (usually Christian) clergy violated citizens' First Amendment rights to be free of an established religion. Despite the cases' similarities, Judge Michael Urbanski said,according to the Danville Register & Bee, "Defendants fail to cite, let alone analyze, the four factors to be considered by the court in determining the propriety of a stay."

The Scott County School Board will pay a former school administrator $80,000 to settle her sexual harassment claim against former school superintendent and former judge D. Gregory Baker. Though the school board initially denied a FOIA request for the settlement by Virginia Lawyers Weekly, the school's attorney eventually turned over the document, which detailed incidents of lewd texts, retaliatory work actions and calls to a phone sex service.

LVA loves records

The Library of Virginia unveiled a new feature of its online records management services: agency-specifc records retention schedules. The library already posts the retention schedules of general applicability across state and local government. The agency-specific schedules apply to records held by just that state agency and are a great resource when trying to figure out exactly which records one might seek through a FOIA request. Read more about the feature onVCOG's website, which includes a link to the schdules themselves.

Open government in the news

Hampton appeared to go one up in the  public battle between it and Newport News over who was responsible for the mistaken release from custody of a local murder defendant. Newport News claimed it received a call about the defendant from Hampton, but a call log obtained by the Daily Press showed now incoming calls from Hampton that day.... Culpeper County Supervisor William C. Chase Jr. filed a $1.75 million libel suit against the Commonwealth Attorney Megan R. Federick over an email she sent in which she called Chase and some of his fellow supervisors “incompetent and corrupt.”...The Danville Sheriff’s Office is set to launch a new website that will provide public information about inmates at the local jail....Saying the job was “not for sissies,” Roanoke County Supervisor Butch Church cast the lone vote against a proposed resolution calling for supervisors to abstain from making verbal attacks and to drop partisanship for the betterment of the county. Church said in October that he was seeking the job of county public information officer....The chair of the Halifax County School Board admitted that the school trustees strayed from personnel issues in a recently held closed session to discuss a problem with rat droppings at an area middle school....After sacking its embattled school superintendent after an undisclosed personal relationship between a former school board member and her husband came to light, Henrico School Board members were mum about the specifics of Patrick J. Russo’s departure, other than it would cost at least $186,434 in severance pay. Many board members claimed they were prohibited by law from speaking, though which law supposedly does that was not identified....The Bristol Herald Courier received documents through FOIA detailing the nearly $270,000 severance package paid to the former Bristol Virginia Utilities Authority director when he unexpectedly resigned after 12 years in September. In return for the payment, BVU Authority “was released from any potential obligations under [his] employment agreement.”...In his very first public meeting, an afternoon work session, a newly elected James City County Supervisor cast the tie-breaking vote to fire the county administrator. Suspicions of closed-door sessions were raised since the supervisors and the administrator appeared to know what was coming, but the public did not. A recall petition has been initiated by some county citizens.