School Board must discuss its own performance in open meeting

Caroline County's school board members went into a closed session last week to discuss, among other matters, their own performance. It's probably not a bad idea to evaluate themselves occasionally, but they shouldn't keep it secret from county residents.

In fact, using a closed meeting under the personnel exemption to talk about themselves is not permitted under state law. Virginia's Freedom of Information Act permits closed meetings to discuss ìspecific' people they have the authority to hire, fire, discipline or evaluate.

More

York supervisors to review FOIA fees

York County's Board of Supervisors is considering changing how it applies the state's Freedom of Information Act, including increasing fees for copies of the county's zoning ordinance and Yorktown design guidelines.

FOIA gives residents access to public records and will be discussed during the board's work session at 6 p.m. Tuesday at York Hall, according to board's agenda.

More

READER’S VIEWS: Governments need to be transparent

The more transparent and open governments can be, the better for everyone. To most people, transparency has to do with disclosure. Providing information about an issue, event, project, policy, program etc. and then providing a way for people to find and view that information.

Typically, that would suffice. However, when the term is applied in our system of government that particular definition does not go far enough to meet the publicís (expected) definition of transparency. In a democratic government, transparency should be defined as disclosure and discussion.

More

Virginia State Police refuses to disclose publicly funded weapons and vehicles

The Virginia Department of State Police has refused to disclose the types of patrol rifles and other tactical weapons and vehicles it possesses in a decision criticized by civil liberty groups and open-government advocates. The Rutherford Institute in Albemarle County, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Virginia Coalition of Open Government questioned why state police would not release basic descriptions of their taxpayer-funded firearms stock and equipment.

More

Our view: An information upgrade

Radford schools are promising that future audio files of board meetings will end up much less expensive than the $40-an-hour rate quoted initially to an interested resident.

That was the rate before then-school board candidate Mark Schafer contacted columnist Dan Casey. Casey’s April 10 column (“Radford school board recordings out of reach”) exposed a school system not quite up-to-date in its use of technology, and ignorant or indifferent to certain provisions of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

More

From the editor: Open government: it’s a year-long commitment

Sunshine Week. Open meetings. We’re all very familiar with these terms — but how much emphasis do we really place on the significance they have in our government?
Last week, March 16-22, was observed as Sunshine Week and, as we in the newspaper industry often say, shines a light on how important it is that our elected officials conduct themselves in being transparent in their roles.

We can’t take open meetings laws for granted. They were established with a goal in mind: To keep us, the people officeholders serve, informed.

More

Bill moves to study FOIA exemptions

Want to know what your government is really up to?

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows citizens of the commonwealth (and representatives of the media) to gain access to numerous records held by state and local agencies, government officials and other public authorities, along with providing the right to attend public meetings.

The presumption of the FOIA is that all records and all meetings are to be open to the public — unless there is a special exemption specifying secrecy.

Sounds good, right?

More

Editorial – Watson: On Presidents’ Day, Virginia’s transparency track record disgraces legacy

More than two centuries ago, the likes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe established the cornerstones of this great commonwealth and the United States.

They built this commonwealth and nation understanding a fundamental principle — that without transparent and open government accountable to the people, those people cannot be free.

More

By shrinking FOIA’s scope, (VA) General Assembly aims to cover up misbehavior

Two bills submitted for the upcoming session of the General Assembly — one in the House, one in the Senate — are designed to restrict the public’s access to information about wrongdoing by public officials.

These restrictions will make it more difficult for taxpayers to learn about misuse of their money by local governments, school boards, and state-run colleges and universities.

More

A Pretty Good Session for Open Government Advocates

From PotomacLocal.com

When they gathered this week, members of the Virginia Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists joked that they should check the underside of their vehicles for wiretaps.

More