VCOG Board of Directors meeting minutes Nov. 15, 2017

VCOG Board of Directors Minutes 


Virginia Coalition for Open Government

Board of Directors Meeting

Library of Virginia

November 15, 2017



Board Members present:   President, Dick Hammerstrom; Vice President Paul Casalaspi; Secretary, Stephen Hayes, Olga Hernandez, Lawrence McConnell, Brian Colligan, Jeff South, Lou Emerson, Chris Gatewood, Paul Fletcher, Craig Fifer, Bob Gibson. Megan Rhyne.

Rhyne shared four (4) Board Members are departing:  Dorothy Abernathy (retiring), Brian Eckert, Frank LoMonte and Melody Clarke.   Stephen Hayes communicated the Virginia Association of Broadcaster (VAB) would be filling one of the opening shortly.


Call to Order – Hammerstrom called the meet to order at 2:11pm and verified that a quorum was present.  Minutes from April 26, 2017 Board Meeting approved.


Executive Director’s Report - $10,000+ raised through sponsor and individual registrations for the VCOG Annual Conference.  $11,000 was goal.  Additional pledges still possible.  Rhyne gave a brief overview of annual award winners at the conference (Progress Virginia and The News Leader).

Richardson Legal Fellowship – Sarah Silverman investigated how many local governments post minutes. 

Good news on member dues is that new members are joining, challenging news is renewals of current members has declined.  Update on the Transparency Virginia Survey, VCOG supporting, but as a secondary participant.  Feedback from Christopher Wren Association at William and Mary, Rhyne held two sessions on General Assembly and one on FOIA, students were very appreciative of curriculum and objectivity that went with it. Rhyne read a letter from a class participant. 


Nominations Committee.   Lawrence McConnell addressed three issues.   1) Advisory, according to the by laws, VPA and VAB have the ability to appoint representatives to the board.  VPA has renewed the seats of Dick Hammerstrom and Jeff Lester and VAB has a vacant seat with Dorothy Abernathy stepping down.  VAB will address this open seat in the coming months.  2) At Large Members for Board.  The nominating committee is submitting the names of Paul Fletcher, Chris Gatewood and Wat Hopkins with all three having asked to have their terms renewed.  Nominating Committee is recommending approval of these terms renewed.  The full membership will vote on this topic at tomorrow’s annual conference.  Approval of these three Board Members terms to be renewed was unanimous.  3) Address the matter of our unexpired term of Treasurer, Brian Eckert, who has had to resign his position as Treasurer and also a Board Member.  Lawrence stated replacing the vacant Treasurer position did not need a full membership vote, but it did require a Board of Directors vote.  McConnell recommended current Board Member Jeff South as an ideal candidate to fulfill this expired term. Lou Emerson made the motion for Jeff South to becoming interim Treasurer. The Board unanimously approved. 

Finance Report:   Growth of endowment is solid.  Rhyne commented it was a good decision to move to Vanguard.  August was challenging month in terms of income.  Rhyne went over Maria’s appreciation dinner shortfall, but also less expense in November associated with the event.  New budget is basically flat with the prior year.  Rhyne asked if anyone has any questions or concerns.  


Rhyne shared concerned over some long term members not renewing.  On the other hand, new members have come on board of late.   She speculated that the current “political landscape” is having a positive impact on contributions to national organizations, but a negative effect on local and statewide groups similar to VCOG.  Fifer suggested individual email follow ups to members not renewing.  Rhyne commented she has done this with media organizations, but not with individuals.  Fifer asked Rhyne to send out list of individuals who have not renewed to the board and if there is a relationship that board member can follow up.


Hernandez spoke about more publicity; Emerson suggested a Virginia Hall of Fame of Whistle Blowers; Brian brought up importance of short “elevator speech” on the recent achievements of VCOG. Brian also brought up Facebook emphasis.  Rhyne ultilized Facebook ads for the conference, but with minimal success.  General consensus to develop a better overall social media strategy for VCOG.  Hayes suggested speaking with WTVR interactive team from a consultative perspective.


Government Accountability

Rhyne addressed letter to the Governor and response.  Tone of Governor’s office was defensive, but everyone is on the record.


Finance Report (Continued):   

Rhyne provided the board with the front page of VCOG’s 990 income tax form.   Assets have gone up from $547,490 to $596,976 which is also reflected in our CPA’s financial review.  A motion was made by  to accept the financial review and was approved unanimously.  



VCOG dismissed bookkeeper at Payne & Associates.   Timing of reporting did not meet our standards.  New bookkeeper, also at Payne, has been outstanding.


50th Anniversary of FOIA

Hammerstrom suggested volunteers to write several Op Eds that could be published over the course of the anniversary week.  Libel cases that could be used as examples.  Many in everyday life.  Reporter’s story behind the story.  Proclamation from the Governor.  Pop up Sunshine Day.  Next step to form a committee via email (using Slack on line forum).  


Hammerstrom requested a closed door session regarding Rhyne’s health insurance coverage.  Fifer made the motion to increase the subsidy to $350 a month. Motion seconded by Bob Gibson.  All approved.


McDonnell had question regarding the budget.   Suggested Maria Everett dinner revisions could be made in order to give a more realistic picture.  Conversation about when the last time we adjusted our dues?  The last adjustment was 2006.   Fifer made the observation that raising dues would not help in attracting members.   New motion to accept the budget pending the amendments regarding the dinner and healthcare changes.  All approved.


Rhyne thanked Casalaspi for the use of the space for the Board Meeting.


Hammerstrom moved the meeting adjourn at 3:49pm.