A recent test by 13 Virginia newspapers showed that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are easily ignored by government officials. Newspaper representatives and the American Civil Liberties Union have found government agencies unwilling to respond to many FOIA requests.
The source of the advice to, “never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel,” is disputed, but its wisdom is not up for debate. Three first-term members of the Loudoun county board of supervisors might be excused for not heeding it, but Scott York leading a pack of four is surprising. Their joint letter (about the board’s spending policies) to the Loudoun Times-Mirror makes a few valid points, but, even as ink is being replaced by electrons, it may not have been their best move to tackle the LTM’s February 26, 2014 editorial on the LTM’s own Web site. Editors have a way of getting the last word in front of their readers, which York should know.
But, wise or risky, perhaps a more intriguing question created by their letter is this: How did four out of nine members of the board of supervisors write a joint letter about spending the county’s money when the Virginia Freedom of Information Act forbids more than two of them to meet, even electronically, while discussing public business?
Ignoring good advice is one thing. Ignoring the state’s transparency laws… that’s another.