Sunday, March 11, 2007

Culpeper County spends $93,000 for opposing sides' attorneys' fees

This article explains how Culpeper County agreed to reimburse attorneys' fees spent by three Virginia newspapers after the Virginia Supreme Court determined the county's Board of Supervisors violated FOIA by "going into closed session to discuss a school construction project." The Board didn't sound very remorseful or enlightened. Supervisor Sue Hansohn said at the meeting that "I really don't want to make this motion, because I don't think we were wrong, but I'm going to make this motion to pay the bill because I don't think we have any other choice."

Uh, Ms. Hansohn, you were, and are still wrong. The Virginia Supreme Court made that clear: "[W]e conclude the Board violated FOIA by closing its meeting on October 5, 2004. . . . We further conclude the circuit court erred in finding that, although the Board's motion to close its meeting violated FOIA, special circumstances made an award of attorney's fees and reasonable costs unjust. . . . Thus, we will reverse the judgment of the circuit court and remand for issuance of a writ of mandamus and the determination of an award of attorney's fees and reasonable costs to the publishers." No wonder one of the newspaper editors stated that "[w]e had a history of problems with open government in Culpeper." Culpeper County will probably pay again with that type of attitude towards the law.