Numerous phone-in Charlottesville council meetings held before policy instated

Charlottesville city councilors appear to have improperly phoned in to numerous meetings, including those dealing with hiring of an interim city manager. In August, the council passed a policy — apparently for the first time — allowing councilors to phone in to meetings in certain situations. Since 2014, state law has required local public bodies…

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FOIA emails show concern about Pittsylvania County (VA) DSS board

Email records obtained by the Star-Tribune through FOIA requests from Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services Director Sherry Flanagan from August 2017 indicated Flanagan was ‘fearful’ of county administrator David Smitherman and worried her board would be eliminated. On August 15, 2017, Brenda Robertson, Administrative Assistant/Legal Assistant for County Attorney Vaden Hunt emailed Flanagan to, “please forward…

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Va.: New Laws Would Help and Hurt Access to Information

For advocates of government transparency, the General Assembly's 2017 session was a mixed bag, resulting in bills that both increased and decreased information available under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the session saw fewer FOIA-related bills than in past years. Even so, the group stayed busy opposing legislation that Rhyne said would keep important information from the public.

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Va.: Lawmakers vote for four ways to increase government secrecy

bill that would make deliberately ignoring citizens' Freedom of Information Act requests a firing offense died in a state Senate committee Monday.

The Senate General Laws committee also voted to shield records related to bingo and other charitable gambling supplies, as well as making confidential engineering and construction plans for single-family houses filed with local building officials to ensure compliance with state building codes.

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Virginian-Pilot editorial: Be a force for openness in government

It’s optimistic to believe that this (or really any) legislative session in Virginia will make a turn toward openness and away from punching holes in the law that ensures public access to documents and meetings.

But maybe, just maybe, this could be a session where lawmakers choose to hold the line on those principles and act with deference toward the people’s right to know.

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New open-data portal increases transparency in Virginia Beach

You don’t have to be a journalist or a Freedom of Information Act expert to access public records in Virginia Beach, thanks to a new open-data portal that launched Monday.

The portal provides Virginia Beach residents easy access to many public records normally available through a FOIA request. The idea is to cut the middle man, putting information at residents’ fingertips and encouraging city employees to look at ways to improve services, said Virginia Beach Director of Management Services Catheryn Whitesell.

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Virginia Supreme Court to hear Daily Press appeal over court database

The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal requested by the Daily Press in a yearlong dispute over whether the state’s Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court must release a database of court case information.

The decision was issued Sept. 19, about two and a half weeks after lawyers representing the Daily Press argued that the state’s highest court should hear the case.

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VA: Gas industry seeks regulations delay, FOIA exemption for fracking

The gas industry is pushing for a delay in new Virginia drilling regulations until it can get state law changed to protect key information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

These regulations, the result of a review that started at the end of 2013, are slated to be finalized shortly before the end of the year. Industry lobbyists this week asked legislators on a commission that monitors the executive branch's regulatory process to help delay implementation until at least July 2017.

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VCOG: Open Government Awards Nomination Form

Nominations are being accepted for VCOG’s Freedom of Information Awards, to be presented in the fall of 2016. Entries should be submitted by November 2, 2016, by filling out the form below or by mailing the same information to VCOG, P.O. Box 2576, Williamsburg VA 23187.

Awards are given to citizens, media and government for their recent efforts in keeping Virginia state or local government open and accountable to the public.

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