VCOG Board of Directors meeting, November 30, 2012

Virginia Coalition for Open Government
Board of Directors
November 30, 2012

Craddock-Terry Hotel & Event Center
Lynchburg, VA

The meeting was called to order at 8:00 a.m., by Dorothy Abernathy, President.

The following Board members were physically present: Dorothy Abernathy, President; Paul Casalaspi, Treasurer; Ginger Stanley, VPA Representative; Lawrence McConnell, Immediate Past President; Mark Caramanica; Olga Hernandez; Wat Hopkins; Jeff Lester; Tom Moncure; Bill O'Donovon; Michael Stowe; Jonathan Williams. Board members Frosty Landon and Jeff South participated by videoconference. Also present were Megan Rhyne, Executive Director, and Clyde Christofferson, member of the Coalition Partners Advisory Panel.

Upon a motion by Hernandez, seconded by Stanley, the minutes from the July 27, 2012, meeting of the Board were unanimously approved by voice vote.

Rhyne reported that approximately 50 attendees are expected to participate in today's Annual Conference, and that sponsorships came in significantly above the goal. Today's session topics will include the University of Virginia presidential issues in 2012; efforts to digitize the Kaine Administration's emails; a speaker from the National Freedom of Information Coalition; litigation against localities; and prayer and public comment at public meetings.

Casalaspi presented the annual financial review, and reported that there were no issues. Upon his motion, seconded by Hernandez, the Board unanimously received the review by voice vote. Casalaspi and Rhyne reported on efficiency improvements to the Coalition's payment processing and website hosting. Casalaspi reported that the Coalition's IRS 990 (Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax) was filed in October. He briefly reviewed the Coalition's financial statement, and suggested that Craig Forbes, the Coalition's contract accountant, be invited to attend the next Board meeting. The endowment fund balance is approximately $482,000, and Casalaspi suggested that the goal be to maintain a balance of at least $500,000.

Rhyne reported that the Coalition's membership has remained level at between 160 and 170 members. Abernathy and Hernandez suggested a combination of email and postal reminders for membership renewals. Lester said he has reached out to some of the newspaper members whose memberships have lapsed, and asked his colleagues to do the same. Rhyne reported that 16 of the Coalition's current 21 Board members are individual members of the Coalition as of this meeting.

Rhyne reported that the terms of the following Board members will expire on December 31, 2012, and all have indicated interest in continuing their service. The Nominating Committee recommended that they be re-elected or re-appointed for the 2013-2014 term: Dorothy Abernathy, Mark Caramanica, Paul Casalaspi, Craig Fifer, Mark Grunewald, Frosty Landon, Lawrence McConnell, Patricia O'Bannon, Bill O'Donovan, Melody Scalley, Jeff South, Michael Stowe.

The Nominating Committee further recommended the following slate of candidates for the Executive Committee: Craig Fifer, President; Dick Hammerstrom, Vice President; Paul Casalaspi, Treasurer; Olga Hernandez, Secretary. Dorothy Abernathy would move to the position of Immediate Past President, and Ginger Stanley and Doug Easter would remain representatives of the Virginia Press Association and Virginia Association of Broadcasters, respectively, will also remain on the Executive Committee. The Nominating Committee further recommends that Bob Gibson, Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia; and Jim LeMunyon, Member of the House of Delegates from Sterling; be elected to fill at-large vacancies on the Board.

Upon motion by Stowe, seconded by O'Donovon, the Board unanimously approved the Nominating Committee's recommendation by voice vote. Those recommendations requiring election by the Coalition membership will be presented at the Coalition's Annual Meeting later in the day.

Hernandez suggested that Rhyne contact Delegate Mark Keam to gauge his interest in serving on the Board. Stanley expressed concern that members of the General Assembly may find it difficult to make a full time commitment to Board service, and Hopkins noted that a Board meeting attendance policy may create an awkward situation for General Assembly members.

Rhyne reported that four of the Board's 27 permitted seats will still be vacant if the Nominating Committee's recommendation is fulfilled.

Caramanica, chair of the Litigation Committee, reported on recent litigation. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the McBurney case, which seeks to overturn the Virginia Freedom of Information Act provision (§ 2.2-3704(A)) restricting rights under the Act to citizens of the Commonwealth and media outlets that circulate in Virginia. The Coalition has previously joined in an amicus brief on this case, and will do so again at the U.S. Supreme Court level.

Caramanica further reported on the WVIR case, which is being appealed from the Charlottesville Circuit Court. At issue in the case is an apparent conflict between one provision of state law that permits judges "sole discretion" over recording in courtrooms, and another that requires "good cause" for a judge to restrict recording. Board members discussed their professional experiences with this issue, and expressed frustration over the current state of law and practice on this topic.

Caramanica further reported on the Ewing case, which concerns access to criminal incident information under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Ewing requested the information from the James City County Police Department, which replied that § 2.2-3706 only requires the release of criminal incident information contained in records, and that Ewing did not request any records. Ewing believes that criminal incident information must be released even if no existing records contain that information.

Stanley reported that the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council's subcommittee on Criminal Investigative Records has been working on a draft bill to update the relevant provisions of FOIA.

Rhyne reported that the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council's subcommittee on Electronic Meetings has recommended two draft bills on the subject. The first bill would remove the current quorum requirement for electronic meetings of committees and advisory boards of state public bodies, if audio and video technology is used and a central public meeting location is provided. The proposal has a one-year sunset clause. The second bill would permit members of local public bodies to participate in meetings electronically, up to two times per year, for "personal matters" if approved by the bodies.

The next meeting of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council is on December 17, 2012.

Stanley reported that the Virginia Press Association has been closely monitoring public notice legislation, and has collected data on the amount of money localities have been spending on public notices in newspapers, and the exposure of website notices versus newspaper notices.

Rhyne reported that some members of the University of Virginia community have been floating the idea of permitting more than three members of a public body to meet without public notice or access. Rhyne further reported on a list of legislative ideas she has shared with some access-friendly legislators.

Rhyne further reported that the Coalition has received a $5,000 grant from National Freedom of Information Advisory Coalition to make the Coalition's website mobile friendly and develop a mobile app.

Rhyne further reported that the Coalition Partners Advisory Council held a productive meeting in September.

Rhyne gave an update on the "How Many Clicks" project she has been leading, in which a team of students at Christopher Newport University has collected data on the number of clicks required to locate the annual budget on each Virginia city and county's website.

Abernathy led a discussion of her annual review of the Executive Director's performance, during which discussion Rhyne and Christofferson were excused. The review, which is positive, has been distributed to members of the Board. Abernathy asked the Finance Committee to recommend a mechanism to provide periodic, performance-based, salary increases to the Executive Director.

Rhyne returned to the meeting and reported that the next meeting of the Board is tentatively scheduled to take place in late March 2013, at the Virginia Press Association's headquarters in Glen Allen.

The Coalition's annual awards will be presented today to The Cavalier Daily for its work on the University of Virginia presidential crisis, to Vernon Kelley and the Concerned Citizens of Giles County for their successful lawsuit to compel the release of budget records, and to Sen. Harry Blevins for his efforts to expand access to vital records.

There being no further business to come before the Board, Abernathy adjourned the meeting at 9:55 a.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Craig Fifer