VCOG board of directors minutes 083116

VCOG Board of Directors Meeting Minutes of August 31, 2016
Henrico County Government Center, Henrico VA


Members Attending: President Craig Fifer; Vice President Dick Hammerstrom; Treasurer Paul Casalaspi; Dorothy Abernathy; Pat O’Bannon; Peter Easter; Brian Eckert; Betsy Edwards; Paul Fletcher; Frank LoMonte; Lawrence McConnell; Executive Director Megan Rhyne

President Fifer called the meeting to order at 1:15 p.m. and noted that no quorum is participating, so that no binding votes may be taken. Fifer welcomed the new executive director of the Virginia Press Association, Betsy Edwards, who replaces Ginger Stanley in that role and as ex-officio representative to the VCOG Board.

Executive Director’s Report: Megan Rhyne updated the Board on ticket sales and sponsorships for the upcoming 20th anniversary dinner. To date, 41 tickets have been sold and $12,298 pledged, including a $2,500 sponsorship from Dominion. The Roanoke Times has agreed to be the presenting sponsor for the pre-dinner cocktail hour. The goal is to sell 100 tickets for a venue with a 150-person capacity. Expenses will run about $13,000 so our hope is to gross sales and sponsorships of $25,000 for a net of $12,000. M. Rhyne distributed a packet for use with prospective sponsors and identified several that are high-priority targets.

There has been a surge of membership renewals and memberships now stand at 177, about where that figure has been historically after a slow start to 2016. M. Rhyne will be presenting a number of upcoming workshops including Oct. 24 at the Cavalier Daily and Nov. 17 at the Virginia Association of Assessors’ Offices as well as an Oct. 4 webinar from Tidewater Community College that is geared to an audience of FOIA officers.

M. Rhyne reported on new legislation that requires all agencies to designate a FOIA officer; 350 have provided their contact information so far and a listserv is forming, but there should be at least 1,000. President Fifer commented that there may be revenue opportunities in offering state-mandated training to FOIA officers, using expertise and materials we have already.

M. Rhyne reported on public-policy activities since the last meeting, which included co-signing a letter with the D.C. Open Government Coalition seeking transparency in the safety committee activities of WMATA and co-signing an amicus brief in a case brought by the Daily Press in support of public access to the database of court case information from the Office of Executive Secretary.

Finance Report: M. Rhyne distributed a handout updating the members of the status of income, expenditures and investment values. Over the past year, the endowment and Chip Woodrum funds were moved to Vanguard in an account configured with a mix of 60 percent equities and 40 percent bonds, now standing at a combined total of $552,332. Treasurer Casalaspi reported that fees went down to .08% when the accounts moved to Vanguard and the principal has grown 7% since December 2015. The Board authorizes a draw of up to 5% of the account value to meet operating expenses but no draw was needed in 2015 as we exceeded revenue estimates in most categories of the budget and were able at Betty Kent’s suggestion to economize on newsletter mailings.

M. Rhyne reviewed the proposed budget for 2017 versus 2016 budgeted and actual experience to date. The 2017 budget is slightly larger due to revenue from the anniversary dinner plus some 2015 carryover. M. Rhyne is recommending an increase for litigation projects so we can afford to contribute to amicus brief expenses and also adding $1,500 for administrative assistance to handle correspondence and database management.

After a brief question-and-answer period, President Fifer noted no objection to the budget as proposed among attendees. Abernathy moved and Vice President Hammerstrom seconded that the Executive Committee of the Board approve the budget as submitted, and it passed on a unanimous voice vote. It was agreed that the budget will be brought back to the full Board for ratification in December.

Old Business: In response to a discussion at the August meeting, LoMonte presented the draft circulated among several members of a proposed gift acceptance policy that will guide the Board and staff in deciding whether to decline large gifts the acceptance of which might create an appearance inconsistent with the organization’s Guiding Principles. The Board offered a series of comments and proposed revisions to the draft, a final version of which (as attached) was informally agreed-upon and will be submitted to the Board for a formal vote. The revisions clarify that the executive director will notify the Executive Committee upon receipt of any gift or pledge worth $2,500 or more so that any possible concerns about the donor or the motive for the donation may be considered before acceptance.

Vice President Hammerstrom reported that the Bylaws Committee discussed since the last meeting whether to amend the bylaws to account for remote participation in meetings via teleconference but that the decision was made not to pursue an amendment. Chairman Fifer commented that if absenteeism is a chronic problem, the Board can take that into account in evaluating the member’s continued membership.

New Business: The Board discussed the upcoming FOIA exemption hearings at the Capitol in September and noted the importance of open-government advocates attending and being heard, particularly on the subject of access to law enforcement records. Chairman Fifer suggested taking the schedule of FOIA committee hearings into account when scheduling future Board meetings.

 M. Rhyne announced that the next meeting will be held in conjunction with the Annual Conference, scheduled for Dec. 8 at Montpelier.

Adjournment:  By unanimous consent, Chairman Fifer adjourned the meeting at 3:08 p.m.

Respectfully submitted by
Frank LoMonte