Private attorney David Konick, a member of the Rappahannock County Board of Zoning Appeals, is counseling the chairman of the Rappahannock County Planning Commission about provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
“Hopefully, a word to the wise will be sufficient, and you won’t be attacked in the local news-rag of ‘sliding under FOIA’ because in fact, you didn’t ‘slide under’ anything, you violated it,” Konick wrote Friday afternoon to Planning Commission Chair Gary Light.
Konick told Light that at two recent Planning meetings he failed to follow two FOIA provisions, one requiring that when a particular meeting’s materials are furnished to the board they shall simultaneously be made available for public inspection.
“You failed to do this at the Commission’s last work session. The materials you handed out at the start of the meeting were not made available for public inspection until after the meeting was over,” the lawyer told Light via email.
Konick opined that the alleged FOIA violations were “not only rude and inconsiderate to your fellow Commissioners and the public, it is [sic] indicates a lack of respect for the citizens who are interested in the Comp Plan and/or apparent contempt for Principle 9 of the Rappahannock Comprehensive plan” encouraging citizen involvement in the planning process.
The lawyer suggested from the public’s viewpoint “it appears many of your actions is [sic] intended to stifle public comment and participation, not to encourage or promote it, starting with your arbitrary and capricious ‘three minute’ rule on public comment at meetings, and your failure to provide the public, via board dox or otherwise, of draft documents and other materials that are provided to or circulated among the members prior to the meetings.”
Secondly, Konick informed Light that at the regular Planning Commission meeting this week “you seemed unaware that all public bodies must keep minutes of all their meetings. The [Virginia] Code specifically provides that ‘meetings’ includes work sessions.”
The attorney warned Light “there are civil penalties” for violating FOIA, “not to mention paying the cost of the other side’s attorney’s fees.” Konick knows of what he speaks. On behalf of Rappahannock llama farmer Marion Bragg, he has filed two lawsuits against the county government surrounding alleged FOIA violations.
Light did not immediately reply to an email from the Rappahannock News seeking response.
“Thanks for taking the time to consider my views and a Happy Easter to you and your family,” Konick concluded his email.