Clarification is needed in response to John Lesinski’s letter on my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the school board last year. The suit was about disclosing the contract terms and the conditions for the cell tower agreement before making a vote — not, as Lesinski stated, “to halt [the board’s] constitutional right to vote on the cell tower matter.”
FOIA permits — but does not require, as Lesinski stated — contracts to be discussed in closed sessions. In accordance with Virginia law, “Public bodies may hold closed meetings. . . .” to discuss legal matters; however, Lesinski and the board were using the closed sessions to withhold details of the Community Wireless Services agreement from public review.
The reason for the FOIA lawsuit against the school board was the board’s failure to share information that the law requires be readily available to the public. The FOIA lawsuit did succeed — it resulted in the public release of the cell tower agreement between CWS and the school board — prior to the board’s vote. The terms of the CWS agreement were not in the best interest of the students, the public or the school. The CWS contract negotiations were completed months before the school board vote in January 2015. What were Lesinski’s and Amy Hitt’s motivation for withholding this information?
Finally, the school board’s discussion and vote to approve the lawsuit’s settlement has never been made public and has never been placed into the board’s official minutes. The terms of settlement and the ultimate cost of the FOIA litigation were never made public.
The Act requires that such matters be discussed and voted on in public session. As his letter to the editor demonstrates, John Lesinski continues to mislead the public about what the law requires and to shield what the school board is doing with public funds. The voters of Hampton and Jackson districts will have to decide whether candidates who have already demonstrated apparent disregard for the public’s involvement should be entrusted with the responsibility of being county supervisors.