Elected Officials are Not Above the Law
Statement on FOIA Violations by Speaker Filler-Corn
A few weeks ago, I posted about how the Speaker of the House paid over $80,000 to have statues removed from the Capitol – in the middle of the night – without notifying the public.
In an attempt to get this more information about the removal of these statues, a private citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Speaker’s office to obtain more details.
The Speaker ignored this request. She lied to Mr. Webster and said the documents she was seeking didn’t exist.
This prompted Mr. Webster to take the matter to court. In court, the judge ruled that there were, in fact, documents related to the removal of the Confederate statues and fined the Speaker.
The court document specifically says, “The Defendant’s response was intended to be interpreted by a reasonable person that the documents do not exist, which would lead a reasonable person to stop inquiring. That deliberate attempt to obstruct the fact-finding mission of the Plaintiff is grounds for an award of attorney fees and an imposition of a civil penalty against the Speaker pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”
FOIA is sacred. It is one of the ways citizens are able to keep their elected officials and government bodies accountable and transparent. A public apology from the Speaker’s office is deserved.
We should be scared if our leaders at the top are ignoring our laws that are meant to keep the government accountable and transparent to the people they represent.
Michael Webert is a Virginia farmer who represents the 18th district, an area that covers all of Rappahannock, and portions of Fauquier, Warren, and Culpeper counties in the Virginia House of Delegates.
You can read the court opinion here: https://www.wric.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/74/2020/10/Motion-to-Award-Attorney-Fees-Webster.pdf