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VA Court To Review "Official" Email Rules 102

imac.usr writes "The Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments today on a case brought by a Fairfax County resident alleging that the county's school board members violated the state's Freedom of Information Act. The suit alleges that board members colluded to close an elementary school in the county through rapid exchange of emails with each other. The state's FOIA rules stipulate that such exchanges can not constitute 'virtually simultaneous interaction' and that any assemblage of three or more members constitutes a formal meeting which must be announced. The article notes similar suits are popping up across the country, highlighting one of the difficulties governments face in balancing communication with transparency."
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VA Court To Review "Official" Email Rules

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  • difficulties? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:03PM (#39701381)

    "any assemblage of three or more members constitutes a formal meeting which must be announced."

    Sounds like simply following the rules would work best.

  • Re:difficulties? (Score:-1, Insightful)

    by MichaelKristopeit491 ( 2549322 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:04PM (#39701395)
    you can't legislate morality.
  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:07PM (#39701419) Homepage Journal

    OK fine, I'll check my email from 8-8:30AM and 12-12:30PM, my fellow board member will check his mail from 9-9:30AM and 1-1:30PM, and so on so we have at least two "round robins" per day.

    By the end of the week we'll accomplish what would've taken half an hour, but it will be in secret and nobody will be the wiser.

  • Re:difficulties? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:10PM (#39701457)

    You can legislate anything you damn well please. You can even enforce a good majority of it. Whether or not it will work as intended is another matter.

  • Re:The fix was in. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:15PM (#39701511)

    The politicians knew what they were doing. Making decisions behind closed doors so the public could not object..... similar to how Congress passed the NDAA during the holidays when the public was distracted, and the president signed it on New Year's Eve.

  • Re:The fix was in. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:16PM (#39701517) Homepage

    The presumption is that some real estate developer wants the prime real estate the school sits on, and spread enough money around to make it happen.

    So I assume the bribery investigation will be coming soon? I grant you, if you investigated public officials for taking bribes, there wouldn't be many left in office, but still ...

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:24PM (#39701605)

    difficulties governments face in balancing communication with transparency

    More like difficulties on how to arrange actions that affect the public without having to disclose them under FOIA. These bureaucrats long for the day they could impose their will on the people while leaving the people clueless, and they will work any angle on a FOIA law that they can in order to get it.

  • Re:The fix was in. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:28PM (#39701641) Homepage Journal

    Bribes? Surely such a thing does not exist in 'Tis of Thee!
    Only legal contributions made from the goodness of the corporate heart, with absolutely no unspoken expectations attached.

    Likewise I am sure that these fine gentlemen and gentlewomen never tried to circumvent regulation, and never used e-mail to assemble and reach a quick resolution behind the back of the public.
    Perish the thought! How unpatriotic to even suggest it!

  • Which "NDAA"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:28PM (#39701643)

    You mean the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the entire federal defense budget, and of which there is one every single fiscal year, is always passed around the same time, and which always has controversial provisions because they're easy to stick into a defense spending bill?

    Oh, you mean the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, which had a total of about two controversial sentences out of hundreds of pages, clearly codifying what has been standard practice for persons identified as enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay for several years?

    The one that people thought was some kind of a "secret plot" to indefinitely imprison random American citizens in military custody without trial, even though the wording says persons must be a "part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners"?

    That NDAA? Oh. Yeah. Completely and totally unrelated. But nice try bringing something like military detention provisions into a story about a local school board's email communications!

  • by jmauro ( 32523 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @01:37PM (#39701727)

    The issue is that meetings should be public so the public can know what's being discussed, can be there to watch, and be able comment on the proceedings since the board members actually you know work for the public. Doing the meeting via email does keep a paper trail, but it doesn't allow the public to weigh in on the decision. That is the issue.

  • by jmauro ( 32523 ) on Monday April 16, 2012 @02:35PM (#39702403)

    What you'll find though is the well connected interest groups would then rule the roost and pretty much run roughshod over everyone else, all so the connected groups can make the most profit at the expense of everyone else. And by the next election it's usually too late to overturn the decisions (and if it's really controversial they'll just run someone else who'll keep the machinery flowing to the right connected parties.)

    We tried the closed meetings, get things done way before and it was so bad laws like the Open Meetings and Sunshine laws since keeping things secret and getting things done led to things like general corruption and machines like Tammany Hall. Having everyone gum up the works (i.e. having all sides voices heard) is a feature of the system, not a bug.

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