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- Published on Wednesday, 21 July 2010 15:15
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On Wednesday, June 14, Colonial Beach Town Clerk Barbara Goff notified the Journal that the FOIA documents requested on June 25 were ready. Goff further informed The Journal that the cost for administrative time spent in filling the FOIA request would be waived as it had reached approximately $200. The decision to waive the administrative fees came about, according to Goff, from a â€ścommitment by the town staff to serve our citizens.â€ť
A review of the 45 pages, which included a 10-page employment agreement and a 4-page job description for the Chief of Police position, provided no evidence as to the breakdown of contract negotiations that occurred between former police chief Christopher Hawkins and the town during the timeframe of June 10 through June 24.
Although personnel issues are private matters between employees and employers, conducting the business of running a town is a public matter. Because of the silence of town council on an issue that had generated much public response, requesting e-mails could have provided insight into the process by which council formulated new terms and conditions in the employment agreement offered to Hawkins.
What is clear from a review of the e-mails between council members, town attorney and town manager regarding contract negotiations is that the outpouring of citizen input regarding the issue of re-hiring Hawkins as police chief was not given any consideration in a written format. Nor was there any written evidence of consideration given to past job performance. Further, there was no written evidence of any attempt to actually negotiate contract terms, as evidenced in an e-mail from council member Karen Payne that said â€śit was made very clear to Chief Hawkins to whom he reports and that there would be conditions placed in his new contract.â€ť Rather, e-mails seemed to focus primarily on who reports to whom within the town.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Act, Â§ 2.2-3700 et. seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees in order to insure transparency in government. It is a simple concept that insures the public access to written documents pertaining to government business by elected or appointed officials or employees
The Journal is committed to our readers to bring information to light in order to bridge the gap between elected officials and the citizens they were elected to represent. The Journal is further committed to providing only information with a factual basis.
A failing of FOIA is that only written documents are covered, and that it is impossible to ascertain intent or have access to conversations.