The county has a week to produce records it maintained did not exist, and monetary sanctions are being considered, following a court review Monday.
“I’m going to give the county one more chance” to comply, General District Court Judge Marcus Brinks said at the conclusion of his review of an alleged violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Under the law, residents can ask for certain information from the government. The government must provide the information or show it is legal to not honor the request.
Russell W. “Bill” Moore, of Woolwine, requested information regarding certain items in the county’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget, including minutes of meetings, electronic communications, emails, notes, records of telephone calls or other documents regarding discussion or approval of capital leases of school buses and computers.
Monday was the third court review in the case.
During previous reviews, County Administrator Tom Rose testified the county did not have some of the records Moore requested. Rose has said the records did not exist.
On Monday, Moore cited minutes of certain county and/or school division meetings during which discussions may have included the records being sought, including a joint meeting between county and school officials on Feb. 3, 2016.
Then, three members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, Rose and other county personnel, attended a budget presentation by school officials on the school budget proposal.
One member of the liaison committee then communicated the school budget information to the remaining board of supervisors members, Moore said records showed.
Rose said he will provide the information.
“Why wasn’t that given to Mr. Moore earlier,” Brinks asked.
Moore said he presented his information at the May 8 meeting of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, and that he felt “chastised by the board of supervisors;” was told Rose was a busy man and “like I shouldn’t be wasting his time. … To me, at least, there’s a pattern here of non-responsiveness,” Moore said.”This should be a big concern to the citizens. It is a big concern for me.”
Moore asked Brinks to “take some measure … to fine” Rose for not responding to the request Moore made under state law.
“It is in my purview to do that,” Brinks said, and noted he could order fines of up to $500 per occurrence.
Brinks gave the county a week to comply. He said he would take the sanctions Moore requested under advisement.
The next hearing in the case is tentatively set for May 23.