VCOG Board of Directors Meeting, Jan. 15, 2021

VCOG Board of Directors meeting, January 15, 2021, 3 p.m.

via Zoom

PRESENT: Acting President Paul Casalaspi; Treasurer Jeff South; Secretary Stephen Hayes; Brian Colligan; Lou Emerson; Maria Everett; Joe Fuentes; Bob Gibson; Isaiah Knight; Lawrence McConnell; and Bruce Potter. Also, Executive Director Megan Rhyne.

The meeting began at 3:06 p.m.

Rhyne thanked Casalaspi for stepping in to sever as VCOG president for the past several months after Dick Hammerstrom stepped down. Casalaspi said he was glad to help.

McConnell presented the Nominating Committee’s list of candidates for VCOG board officers:

President: Jeff South

Vice President: Paul Casalaspi

Secretary: Stephen Hayes

Treasurer: Joe Fuentes

Everett moved to approve the slate. Knight seconded and the vote was unanimous.

Rhyne gave the financial reports, noting that the IRS 990 filing and financial compilation for 2019-20 have been completed without any real change over last year.

Rhyne gave the year-to-date financial report, noting that the accountant she engaged in December 2019 encountered substance abuse problems that came to a head in April. After entering rehab and staying clean for 5 months, he got back in touch with Rhyne and she paid him to translate VCOG’s financial statement lines into standardized accounting codes and has been teaching Rhyne how to run reports and file end-of-year W2s and 1099s through QuickBooks. Rhyne reported that she has been sending monthly financial reports to South and Casalaspi this year and will continue to send reports to the new president and treasurer, South and Fuentes.

As to the specifics of the year-to-date report, Rhyne noted that revenue for the first six months ($41,145.99), including drawdowns from the endowment, are on par with last year, if not slightly better, considering the Chip Woodrum IRA did not send a disbursement check this year and may have finally been depleted.

Expenditures ($35,771.89) are down compared to last year. The difference can be attributed primarily to the fees usually paid for the accountant (see above) and for Rhyne’s travel expenses ($25 this year, compared to roughly $1,000 last year for the same period).

Rhyne also noted that the endowment has grown by approximately $100,000 so far this year, even with the drawdowns. The total value of the endowment is approaching $750,000.

Rhyne shared VCOG’s annual bill chart for the 2021 legislative session. There are fewer bills this year — because of the virtual session — but Rhyne reported that lobbying virtually “is the pits.”

Rhyne highlighted several bills, including:

  • HB 1941, which tries to force release of recordings of officer-involved shootings or tasings.
  • HB 1972 and SB 1103, which would make Parole Board votes public. Similar bills offered in the 2020 special session were defeated by Democrats in the House.
  • HB 1997, which would change the definition of “meeting” to allow more members of a public body to talk together without triggering FOIA’s rules for meetings. In response to Knight’s question, Rhyne said it was likely the bill would be assigned to the General Laws FOIA subcommittee, which the bill’s sponsor sits on.
  • HB 2004, the bill Rhyne has worked on since last spring on access to closed criminal investigative files
  • HB 2082 seeks more transparency for the redistricting commission and HB 2120 seeks more transparency for boards of visitors for higher ed. Rhyne assisted Del. Keam on the latter.
  • HB 2196, which deals with the release of police disciplinary records.
  • SB 1271 is the bill VPA shepherded through with VCOG, VML and VACO to codify the 2020 budget language adjustments to the remote meeting rules during emergencies.
  • SB 1361 would prohibit releasing the name of a police officer investigated by a local civilian oversight body.
  • HB 1931 would expand the number of times an individual can call into a meeting without being physically present. Rhyne noted that when the bill went through the FOIA Council, it was subject to an aggressive lobbying campaign spearheaded by the vice mayor of Arlington, using the argument that the current rules adversely impact women.
  • HB 2000 (a bill) and HJ 564 (a resolution) both have to do with FOIA fees. HJ 564 was prompted by Rhyne’s research into how other states handle fees. Rhyne prefers the resolution because she thinks it better directs the FOIA Council on how to study fees. Potter added that the bill is overly complicated.

Rhyne asked members to keep an eye on VCOG’s Facebook page, where she is posting information about particular bills, like when they’re coming up for hearing and arguments that can be offered.

Rhyne shared a video she put together on how to track legislation through the Legislative Information System.

Rhyne shared a one-page fact sheet on VCOG as part of NFOIC’s effort to better understand the shape, size and purpose of the various state coalitions.

Everett complimented Rhyne on the legislative tracking video.

Knight asked if there were any action items for the board. Rhyne responded that publicizing VCOG’s position on various legislation is the primary need now.

Rhyne shared her hope that she will be able to do some sort of virtual Sunshine Week program, and if so, members could help by promoting that.

Everett also offered her help behind the scenes during the legislative session.

McConnell reminded us that 2021 is the 25th anniversary of VCOG. The pandemic may hamper any opportunity to capitalize on it, but we should keep that in mind for a possible celebration. Rhyne also said she should include mention of the anniversary in various VCOG materials.

The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.


Submitted by Megan Rhyne