Don’t just ignore Virginia’s FOIA laws

Published 8:38 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014

To the editor:

Saturday’s “Task force plans first meeting” article by Tracy Agnew highlights my primary concern with our City Council: The city government does not believe the law applies to them.

I like Councilman Mike Duman as a person. He has taken several politically unpopular actions, because they were the right things to do and not the popular ones. That being said, he should know not to hold closed meetings involving the school funding issue.

Email newsletter signup

Duman is required by state law to “read and become familiar with the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.” Virginia’s FOIA policy statement is clear: “The affairs of government are not intended to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy, since at all times the public is to be the beneficiary of any action taken at any level of government.”

Duman and his fellow council members are used to conducting the affairs of government in an atmosphere of secrecy, frequently in violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. We are presently awaiting decisions from the State Supreme Court on two such violations.

While Duman may not be required to know it, by state law, the School Board is required to “care for, manage and control the property of the school division and provide for the erecting, furnishing, equipping, and non-instructional operating of necessary school buildings and appurtenances and the maintenance thereof by purchase, lease, or other contracts.”

State law requires the School Board to manage and control school property and not the City Council.

State law also requires “each school board (to) manage and control the funds made available to the school board for public schools and may incur costs and expenses.” Once again, the School Board manages school funds, not City Council.

My advice to Councilman Duman and his fellow council members is this: If they do not like the law, then lobby the legislature to change it. Do not just ignore it.

Chris Dove