School board  must obey FOIA

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Your Feb. 3 article titled “IW schools commits to boost transparency, settles two lawsuits” posed as many questions as it answered.

Even after Isle of Wight County School Board members were warned by my email to the chairperson and Tom Finderson by letter, the board continued to violate the Freedom of Information Act. Why?

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Every year there’s board training in multiple areas, but most importantly, in complying with FOIA.  It’s the law, period. It’s dumber than dumb to ignore this law.

VA statute 2.2-3702 requires they “all” read and be familiar with its provisions. Instead they ignore the law at their peril and get sued by Mrs. Lemon, not once but twice! I think these suits would have never happened if then board Chair Hulick had resolved Mrs. Lemon’s concerns in 2019, when she voiced them to the board on Jan. 10, March 14, Aug. 4 and Oct. 10. What was not understood by Chair Hulick, and for that matter the rest of the board?

I trust the Times reporter will investigate further with then Chair Hulick to determine how Lemon’s concerns were addressed internally, or simply ignored. Board protocols say response in writing will be made to citizens addressing the IWCS board. Board meetings are viewable on the Isle of Wight supervisors website under “on demand meeting” video archive and then clicking on “School Board” for the above dates.

Additionally, the Times reporter should ask current Chair Carr if either of Lemon’s suits had FOIA charges/concerns of IWCS board not properly documenting matters contained in a motion “to go into closed meeting,” as set forth in detail in the minutes of the “open meeting” since she specifically stated the board members were “not” doing that on Oct. 10, 2019. This is found in VA 2.2-3712(A).

Really, what is the problem with our IWCS board not applying the FOIA law to its proceedings faithfully, considering the oath of office each has taken? Openness leads to trust. Can we trust them to not hide their proceedings from us citizens/taxpayers?


Herb De Groft