Skinner is suing Claremont clerk

Published 3:20 pm Friday, July 31, 2015

By Diana McFarland
News editor
CLAREMONT — A member of the Claremont Town Council is asking the court to compel the town clerk and mayor to respond to repeated requests for information.
Claremont Town Council member Donna Skinner recently filed a petition for injunction and writ of mandamus in Surry County Circuit Court asking the court to make Town Clerk Melissa Dudney provide a list of expenditures to the town council three days before each meeting, as required by the town code.
Dudney has stated she can’t fulfill this requirement since statements are not generated at the right time, according to the petition.
The petition also asks the court to make Claremont Mayor Louise Hansch provide financial documents to the Town Council and to Skinner, as outlined in state code, as well as past and future requests for information.
Also named on the petition is Claremont Vice Mayor Brigid Jones.
Further, the petition calls for the town to stop violating Skinner’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act and provide the information she has requested.
The petition alleges that a town code passed in February requiring specific fees for copies and allowing future information requests to be withheld if those fees are not paid does not uphold the tenets of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and is therefore invalid.
Skinner has been battling the town for various documents for more than a year. Last March, Skinner obtained a ruling in Surry Circuit Court that the town of Claremont had violated her rights under FOIA.
This came after she claimed to have been locked out of town offices.
Skinner has asked for numerous documents since November 2013, including copies of town credit card statements, town financial reports, information about the town water lines and other information.
Most requests were not fulfilled, according to the suit.
In January, Skinner received a letter from attorney Derek Davis who cited federal FOIA law, rather than state law, as to why certain requests could not be honored, and therefore irrelevant, according to the suit. 
A good deal of Skinner’s concerns are focused on the town’s water and sewer system and how money is being spent.

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