Of FOIA and Coal Ash

This post was first published on July 12, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.  It was last updated on July 13 at  7:30 p.m.

Vernon Kelley, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator for the Concerned Citizens of Giles County (CCGC) gave me permission to publicly post the court documents regarding CCGC  v.  J. Howard Spencer, Jr.,  T.R. Ould, Jr. and the Town of Glen Lyn,  set for a hearing tomorrow on July 13, 2012 at 11:00 AM in Giles County General District Court. 

Howard Spencer is Glen Lyn's Town Manager and Ould, the town's mayor.  On June 6, John Robertson (email, website), attorney for CCGC filed a writ of mandamus for violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

The writ alleges that the written contract between the Town and the Giles County Partnership for Excellence dated June 2006, was only produced in March 2012 and intentionally withheld upon Howard Spencer's instruction in violation of FOIA,  depite an earlier  request dated September 24, 2008.  When  CCGC representatives visited the Town to review the documents in January 2009, a member of the office staff Ms. Debbie Thomas indicated that Howard Spencer "said to tell [the petition's representatives] there was no contract. The writ requests refund of its costs, attorney fees and for a civil fine or penalty and any other relief as the Court may require.

On July 9, the defendants' attorney replied, with a writ to dismiss regarding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), asking that the case be thrown out in a plea of the Statute of Limitations.      
  1.  That the Plaintiff seeks to recover from the Defendants a judgement for money as well as monetary penalties.
  2.   As such the claim of the Plaintiff is a personal action as defined in Virginia Code Section 8.01.228.
  3. That no specific statute of limitations is set forth for the claim of the plaintiffs and it is therefore governed by the provisions of Virginia Code Section 8.01-248 which provides that a personal action for which no other statute of limitations is provided shall be brought within two years.
 You can read a summary of CCGC's reaction in my earlier post.

I was hoping there would be news coverage today, as Kelley told me that three media outlets had interviewed the CCGC attorney John Robertson.  When no coverage appeared, I wrote Robertson his comments, but have not heard back yet.

I also wrote Steven Aftergood (email) of Secrecy News.  He replied that he was not familiar with Virginia law, but referred me to the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.  He also provided me with three Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports on the topic of coal ash:

CRS are not available to the public online except through third parties such as Aftergood's Federation of American Scientists. Yo can also read my most recent post on the attempts to derail the EPA's regulation of coal ash.

More coming...