Cumberland County Sheriff Department – Costs are not allowed to be questioned by the public (FOIA)

This is yet another example of FOIA ignorance and a willful effort to not know anything or abide by the laws.

If they can arrest someone for crimes, which is their job – then they can abide by state law regarding the dissemination of information under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. (That’s also their job, to abide by Virginia Code)

 

Cumberland County overcharged citizens 800% for years for FOIA documents

You would think other citizens would have asked the same question I did earlier this year – How much does one paper copy actually cost the county? Twenty-five cents was the going rate until I asked how much it cost.

Three cents. Versus twenty-five cents. That’s over 800% more than is allowed by law.

ESPN to Olbermann: “…up with which we shall not put.”

Blowhard Keith Olbermann, who I used to admire for his straight talk, left ESPN again recently.

I have no other comment here except that he doesn’t know how to keep his ego in check, and has pissed off every employer he has ever worked for. As a curmudgeonly asshole, he is tiring and sanctimonious. His extreme love for himself outweighs any benefit we as the public might get from continuing to help pay him. He’s zero sum.

I stopped watching his knee jerk crap years ago.

Rampant ignorance and lawbreaking characterize Virginia FOIA

sunshine week right to knowOver the course of the last ten years, FOIA has been my number one activity and focus of government policy research concerning open government and transparency almost exclusively.

Every jurisdiction I look at has their problems; this is no exaggeration. Some are more severe than others, but still: this is a law in the Commonwealth waiting for the respect other laws get.

Claims of unbelieving administrators that these “mistakes” are just that, fall on my deaf ears. I know better. This law is regularly ignored and worse yet, administrators all over the state try to blame others.

The Judiciary plays along, refusing to fine government administrators based on the faulty logic that they know little about what they are doing.

It makes no difference if the jurisdiction is a town, city, county, appointed board of many many subjects (think VEDM, VDGIF, SBE, Supreme Court of Virginia, etc.) that are part of governing. The idea here is to watch the government so we can ask questions of them.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be shocked to see the waste and useless wheel-spinning done in the name of citizen taxpayers.

Just lately, a small town in southeast Virginia was given a conditional fine by a judge who obviously has read the law here. Not only are fines or punishment of any kind rare, judges use the excuse (supplied by every county or jurisdictional official) that the law is complicated and hard to understand.

The enforcement of this law is an open joke to anyone paying attention to it. Although you would think they would know better, the FOIA Council, a legislative division of the General Assembly, claims that some of the complaints about this law are quite unbelievable or exaggerated.

I have documented proof that I share with anyone who asks. Recently, a reporter asked everyone reading his words to send him examples of abuse of the FOIA law, in whatever form that takes.

While conventional wisdom might say this system works, if you look at it from my vantage point, it is a disgrace. In the name of a lofty goal such as transparency, the government of the Commonwealth fails miserably. This is failure from top to bottom.

OPM has a non-response to the complaint about discrimination in FEHBP

When Senator Mark Warner was notified about the prohibition of certain medications through Blue Cross-Blue Shield FEHBP medical plans, I got an answer back from his staff that relayed the message from OPM: Get another plan.

Instead of looking at this problem from the standpoint of the bigger picture of discriminatory health plans offered to federal employees, his staff decided to stand on the rules and claim that even though OPM had passed down their wisdom once already, I would need to fill out more paperwork in order to get help.

This is the mindset of an employer (BLM/DOI) who also didn’t know anything about disability when I was an employee. At the time, the BLM and Interior were on record as agreeing and abiding by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, the agency claimed it didn’t know what to do, even when I asked for accommodations.

Now this FEHBP plan has caused me a year and a half of grief. This is what happens when you work for the government.

 

OPM continues discriminatory medication formulary decisions for FEHBP

flagLast year and this year, I have asked over and over again for some help in getting information about why the OPM is allowed to prohibit common prescriptions based on seemingly gender-centric reasons. There are maybe one or two reasons why these decisions apply to females as well, but the policy language is clear.

In March of 2014, I started asking for a medication which would treat two health problems. In March of 2015, after a year of waiting, I finally got the medication I asked for. Five different doctors sent authorization requests for the wrong diagnosis.

All along in this process I had been told by Blue Cross-Blue Shield that the medication in question was only able to be prescribed for a certain condition and no others. According to them, no medications for “…inadequacy, dysfunction, or sex change…” would be approved, according to the plan approved by the OPM.

I called the OPM several times over the last year.

One of the times I actually got to speak to an OPM employee in the section where these plans are drafted and approved, only for Blue Cross-Blue Shield.  The man I spoke to said he didn’t remember a particular reason for prohibition of this medication, but did remember that things are cut and added to these plans on a cost benefit basis mostly.

Then I tried contacting my U.S. Senator on this issue. This is where the progress stopped.

Next time: OPM has a non-response to the complaint.

 

 

Opinion: Pittsylvania County’s FOIA problems

Pittsylvania County has been in the news lately, after the county Agricultural Development Board was confirmed as having broken the law in regards to FOIA and open meetings.

This is really the tip of a large iceberg. What I found when I looked at the online records of this county might surprise you, but to me, it’s another day looking at a Virginia jurisdiction that is allowed to flaunt and disregard this law. Partially through ignorance of the law by the county attorneys in this state, the FOIA law is even less understood by the Judiciary.

This case is the second example I am personally aware of where the judge in the case opined that the law had been broken, but that they would not punish anyone, “….because the law is complicated and they didn’t understand it….”

In a case I wrote about in an article from 2011, a Westmoreland court case was decided for the plaintiffs, but there was no punishment due to the judge claiming the county administrator and supervisors didn’t know the law. The very law itself states that any appointed or elected official will receive a copy of the law and understand it within two weeks of their appointment or taking office.

§ 2.2-3702. Notice of chapter.

Any person elected, reelected, appointed or reappointed to any body not excepted from this chapter shall (i) be furnished by the public body’s administrator or legal counsel with a copy of this chapter within two weeks following election, reelection, appointment or reappointment and (ii) read and become familiar with the provisions of this chapter.

(1976, c. 467, § 2.1-341.1; 1999, cc. 703, 726; 2001, c. 844; 2002, c. 393.)

So we see the legal counsel of the county should and probably does know this. County Attorneys are paid handsomely, usually to keep the county out of trouble.

In this case, it looks as though the responsibility for knowing the law, which rested with that county attorney, was abrogated in favor of trying to keep the county officials from paying a statutory fine.

If county attorneys, judges and other court officials don’t know the law, and county officials are right there with them, then this system is broken. It would be like me saying to a judge that I didn’t want to haul that junk car away, because I didn’t know it was illegal to store it indefinitely in my yard.

Until the judiciary and the county attorneys follow and enforce the law, this junk car will be staying in the yard. Unfortunately, that means more of government in the Commonwealth will be secret and will be excused as ignorance of the law.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some road bonds to sell and some state business to attend to. Don’t mind the smoky backroom, it’s alive and well.