Cover-Up at City Hall?

"If our public servants Downtown would cover up something as petty as this,

what else would they sweep under the rug?"

 

Questionable Public Record Keeping

How and why? You decide.

A request for a ruling on certain missing information from the public record was made to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act Advisory Council. The request itself provides the details of the curious matter, with underlined links to further information:

 

Who?

Who stood to gain from a cover-up?

It makes no sense that the stenographer would decide to make select portions of the minutes disappear. So, did someone tell the stenographer to do that? If so, who might that someone have been? And why? Who stood to gain from the disappearance? Who might have been spared embarrassment by the disappearance of these words?

When the members of the City Council were informed by a tax-paying citizen of Norfolk of "unprofessional and prejudicial comments" by a planning commissioner, surely they would have investigated the matter and checked the minutes of the meeting. If they had found the accusation to be groundless, why would they not say so, thereby clearing the planning commissioner's name? If they had found the accusation to be true, why would they not censure the planning commissioner for abuse of power?

Someone seems to have swept things under the rug, and considering the peculiar silence of the city council, does it not make sense to presume that it may have been involved in the cover-up?

 

More Evidence

A Facebook Quote (ostensibly talking about "love" locks)

So six months after that City Planning Commission meeting, this commissioner was still dissing her neighbors' house (as well as her neighbors themselves) with some of the same kind of claims that she made at the City Planning Commission meeting. No, the house is neither the "skinniest" nor the tallest house in the neighborhood, facts that had been pointed out to this planning commissioner.

 

The FOIA Advisory Council Ruling

One way to paraphrase the Advisory Council's ruling might be, The law says a "summary" is all that is required, but the law does not regulate summarizing in any way, so all coverupers have to do is — "summarize."

So, who benefitted from the curious summarizing of the minutes in question?

The lesson to be learned is, If you ever attend an official City of Norfolk meeting, and you want to make sure there's a record of what actually goes on there, be sure to bring your own electronic recording device (which is legal at public governmental meetings):

 

Recording Public Meetings

Bring your own recording device, because "any person" can

According to the Code of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Section 2.2-3707:

Any person may photograph, film, record or otherwise reproduce any portion of a meeting required to be open. The public body conducting the meeting may adopt rules governing the placement and use of equipment necessary for broadcasting, photographing, filming or recording a meeting to prevent interference with the proceedings, but shall not prohibit or otherwise prevent any person from photographing, filming, recording, or otherwise reproducing any portion of a meeting required to be open. No public body shall conduct a meeting required to be open in any building or facility where such recording devices are prohibited.

 

The "Summary" Clause

Minutes, including draft minutes, and all other records of open meetings, including audio or audio/visual records shall be deemed public records and subject to the provisions of this chapter.

Minutes shall be in writing and shall include (i) the date, time, and location of the meeting; (ii) the members of the public body recorded as present and absent; and (iii) a summary of the discussion on matters proposed, deliberated or decided, and a record of any votes taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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