VCOG Board of Directors minutes 120716

Virginia Coalition for Open Government
Board of Directors Meeting Minutes of December 7, 2016
Orange County Airport, 11275 Aviation Way, Orange, VA 22960

Board Members present:  President, Craig Fifer; Vice President, Dick Hammerstrom; Treasurer, Paul Casalaspi; Secretary, Olga Hernandez; Immediate Past President, Dorothy Abernathy; Brian Colligan; Peter Easter; Brian Eckert; Lou Emerson; Bob Gibson; Stephen Hayes; Wat Hopkins; Shelley Kimball; Frank LoMonte; Jeff South; Jonathan Williams; and Executive Director, Megan Rhyne. 
Board Members Absent: Melody Himel Clarke; Paul Fletcher; Christopher Gatewood;  Frosty Landon; Jeff Lester; Lawrence McConnell; Patricia O’Bannon; and Nancy Kent Smith.

President Craig Fifer called the meeting to order at 3:10 p.m.

Executive Director’s Report: 

  • The 20th Anniversary dinner, honoring Ginger Stanley was a success yielding $6,870 for VCOG.  63 of the 82 people that signed up attended.  Several prior donors came back but the but some donors had to decide whether to give to the anniversary dinner or to the annual conference.
  • Worked with fundraiser Ms. Betty Kent on the Suntrust and Reynolds Foundation proposals, asking $60,000.  Also contacted all 26 community foundations asking allowance to submit $1,000 proposals for training and engagement.  Received two responses.
  • Webinar Training at Tidewater Community College had 235 signed on to the webinars, 15 attended in person.  Next webinar is scheduled for January 4, 2017.   In 24 hours 160 people registered.  It will include one hour of FOIA and 1.5 hours of records management in partnership with the Library of Virginia.  There is interest in more training from Sheriffs and Police Chiefs associations for the spring. 
  • Annual Conference at Montpelier Visitor’s Center.  Used Eventbrite to register and had an early bird incentive.  So far 85 registrations a record for us.  Our sponsorships are running behind, one traditional sponsor donated to the 20th Anniversary and is deciding whether they are able to contribute again.   Award winners are: Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards (citizen); Richmond Times Dispatch (media) and Arlington Co. (government).
  • Chip Woodrum Internship and Richardson Legal Fellowship:  Only three applications have been received after multiple contacts and distribution to various Universities.  Interviews for the Woodrum internship will be conducted in mid-December.  Will participate in the University of Richmond, William & Mary and Washington & Lee public interest job fair for candidates for the Richardson Legal Fellowship. 
  • Memberships are up by seven but renewals have been slow.  M. Rhyne asked for help contacting renewals on her list.
  • Public Engagement varied.  Attended several meetings of the FOIA Council and some of the sub committees.  M. Rhyne suggested to the Council an amendment to the training requirement statute that would allow VCOG to provide training.  The Municipal League (VML) and Association of Counties (VACO) are very opposed to changing the statute. The board discussed and would like follow-up on how VCOG could help provide training perhaps under the auspices of the FOIA Council.  Attended the NFOIC Annual conference, Virginia Commonwealth University government career job fair, FOIA training for Cavalier Daily, Christopher Wren Association FOIA class instruction, (for the fifth time);  Virginia Association of Assessors Office as a speaker and was a panelist at the American City County Exchange Conference.  Also participated today at the League of Women Voters of Virginia Pre-session of the Women’s Legislative Roundtable.
  • WMATA letter sent the authority by us in conjunction with other jurisdiction’s similar groups from Maryland, Virginia and DC regarding entering into a new governing compact.  DC adopted the Federal FOIA as their guide. 
  • Upcoming engagements, Washington County Bar Association presentation on the 15th via Facetime, Interviews for the Woodrum Internship.
  • Social Media:  1,591 followers on Twitter, 537 Facebook Likes, 458 VCOG Daily  newsletter subscribers, 557 monthly newsletter subscribers.  Had 64 email and phone inquiries in the last three months.

Finance Report:  
M. Rhyne asked for a vote on the proposed FY 2016-17 budget that the Executive Committee recommended, Frank LoMonte moved and Wat Hopkins seconded the motion to ratify the proposed budget.  Motion passed unanimously.

The endowment year to date is doing well after our change to Vanguard.  For the budget, we need to keep an eye on membership and dues.  A donation of $28,000 from the Woodrum family was unanticipated.
The IRS 990 and the 2015-16 financial review have been filed.  Per our accountant our situation is stronger, $14,000 more than last year at this time.  Our insurance costs have increased 25% since 2008,  per the chart distributed prior to the meeting.  Paul Casalaspi moved and Wat Hopkins seconded the motion to accept the financial statement, motion passed unanimously. 

Nominating Committee Report:
President Craig Fifer thanked Paul Casalaspi and Olga Hernandez for their past service as Treasurer and Secretary.  He also thanked the board for the opportunity to serve as President.  Bob Gibson presented the Nominating Committee recommendations.   At-large member, Brian Eckert, renewal for the 2017-18 cycle.  Officer recommendations are: Dick Hammerstrom for President, Paul Casalaspi for Vice President, Steven Hayes for Secretary, Brian Eckert for Treasurer, Craig Fifer as immediate past president.  Peter Easter moved and Dorothy Abernathy seconded the recommendation, motion passed unanimously.  The election will take place at the conference tomorrow.

New Business: 
FOIA Council study did not produce many changes with a few items to be continued.  The omnibus bill is underwhelming.  Some procedures were improved.  Notice of meetings and reconvened meetings were not posted but that has been clarified.  Items to be reviewed are more tech issues, software, use of texting apps and the ability to response to FOIA requests if using new technology.  They cleaned up language in the statute.  They may take up crime reports, and personnel matters.  It was recommended that we look into drawing up some legislation on specifics we would like to see changed. 

It was stated that VCOG had representation on the FOIA Council in the past.  Ginger Stanley may be interested in this assignment now that she is retired. 

VCOG blog proposal from Shelley Kimball can be used to engage citizens and explain the law.  She will ask for stories to post.  This is a work in progress.  She volunteered to head this effort. 

Old Business:
The Gifts Acceptance Policy was distributed at the meeting.  P. Easter moved and P. Casalaspi seconded, motion passed unanimously. 

The policy statement reads:

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG) is governed by a set of Guiding Principles setting forth the organization’s mission and vision.  As with all other activities of the organization, VCOG’s approach to the acceptance of gifts is directed by these Guiding Principles.  The organization reserves the right to refuse donations that conflict with, or undermine the organization’s credibility to effectively advocate for, VCOG’s Guiding Principles.

Process and Practices:

  • The Executive Director has discretion to refuse donations for reasons including but not limited to, expenses associated with acceptance or encumbrances obligating the organization to endorse any cause, position or organization.
  • The Executive Director will make and informal biographical review of any previously unfamiliar donor (individual or institutional) donating or pledging more than $1,000.
  • The Executive Director will notify the Board’s Executive Committee before accepting or rejecting and donation or pledge of more than $2,500.
  • The Executive Director will consult with the Board’s Executive Committee before accepting or rejecting any gift that is believed to be the product of a sentence, plea bargain or other judicial proceeding or other third party agreement.

Dick Hammerstrom suggested that we find a legislator to introduce a bill to allow out of state FOIA requests. 

President Fifer requested that members look at what else they can do to contribute to the work of VCOG.

M. Rhyne showed the framed VCOG 20th anniversary General Assembly resolution sponsored by Delegate James LeMunyon.

The meeting adjourned at 4:43 p.m.

Next Board meeting will tentatively be in the spring, date to be determined.

Respectfully submitted by
Olga Hernandez,