Editorial: Keep Records Open to Public

Many public officials have decided just saying no to requests for government documents is not the best way to keep them secret. Indirect assaults on the public's right to know are better, they believe. That way they cannot be accused of disobeying freedom of information laws.


W.Va. Supreme Court to hear Nitro FOIA case

Attorneys for the city of Nitro will argue Monday before the West Virginia Supreme Court that a circuit judge erred by not allowing the city to charge $25 an hour to look up information to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests.

In 2009, the Nitro City Council approved an ordinance charging citizens $25 an hour if it took city officials more than 10 minutes to look up information to comply with FOIA requests. The fee was supposed to compensate the city for the time it took to collect the requested information.


Nicholas Co. (W VA) Commission gets lesson in ethics & open meetings law

Public business must be carried out in the open. That’s self-evident, but it still does not always happen.

The latest example of the failure of a local government in West Virginia to be open about the public’s business comes from the Nicholas County Commission.

Last August, the Commission hired Roger Beverage as the county administrator at a salary of $60,000 a year. A local citizen, Tim Clifford, challenged the hiring, claiming the Commission acted illegally.


DEP never saw Freedom’s pollution control plans

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection officials never reviewed two key pollution-prevention plans for the Freedom Industries tank farm before the Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents, according to interviews and documents obtained under the state's public-records law.

Under a DEP-approved water pollution permit for the site, Freedom Industries was required to prepare a storm-water pollution prevention plan and a groundwater protection plan.


Putnam man acquitted of disruption charge

From The Charleston Gazette: WINFIELD, W.Va. — A Putnam County website publisher was acquitted Friday of the charge of willful disruption of government process after an incident involving the county’s health department in April.

Mark Hallburn, who runs the website www.putnamlive.com, was arrested after visiting the Putnam County Health Department to inquire about FOIA requests Hallburn had filed with the agency.

Visit The Charleston Gazette for more.




Open-government law now defines ’emergency’ meeting

From WVGazette: CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For years, West Virginia's Open Meetings Act has allowed state agencies, boards and commissions to call emergency meetings on a moment's notice — but until now, it never defined what constitutes an emergency.

That changes with passage of HB2747, which spells out circumstances when emergency meetings may be called.



FOIA may face changes: Proposed bill would give exemption to concealed weapons carriers

From Journal-News.net:

CHARLESTON – Currently in West Virginia, the names and addresses of concealed weapons licensees is public information. But a bill introduced to the House of Delegates on Tuesday could change that.

HB2911 proposes to exempt from the Freedom of Information Act records pertaining to the issuance, renewal, expiration, suspension or revocation of a license to carry a concealed weapon, according to the legislation.


ACLU of W.Va files public records requests for info on police use of military weapons, tactics

From The Republic:

CHARLESTON, West Virginia — West Virginia’s affiliate of the ACLU is participating in a project examining local police use of military technology and tactics.

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia Foundation and 23 other ACLU affiliates across the country have filed public records requests with law enforcement and military agencies.


NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for June 1, 2012

A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week:

Georgia's new open budget law has low compliance

ATLANTA — About half the cities, counties and school districts have yet to comply with a state law designed to make it easier for taxpayers to see how their money is being spent.