In August, Madison filed a FOIA request demanding to see Burton’s newsletter subscriber list. Burton in turn, sent out a mass e-mail, containing Madison's contact information, to everyone in his list advising them of her request. - The Loudoun TimesThe story has another side, however, which is the impact of name revelations on those who have been named. In Loudoun County, anti-development constituents, whose names are revealed through FOIA requests, might be subjected to SLAPP suits. Basically, many developers have a rather annoying habit of suing people critical of development to keep them quiet. This happened in 2004 in a lawsuit over a development near Oatlands plantation.
Even the most silly of lawsuits can require a busy citizen to appear at court, or hire a lawyer to make it go away. Most of our neighbors have neither the time, money nor inclination to fight ridiculous lawsuits because they chose to express their opinions to public officials. For the developers, however, a succesful SLAPP suit, which may be filed a the critical time when public comment is being considered by elected officials, may result in the approval of a multi-million dollar development, even as the finances and home life of the citizen sued is ruined.
This is why it was so important that the anti-SLAPP suit bill is now law in Virginia. This law, which was proposed by Senator Mark Herring and signed into law by Governor Kaine in April, prohibits lawsuits based on comments delivered by citizens in public hearings. (As long as the citizen does not make knowingly false statements.) This law will prevent powerful interests from initiating SLAPP suits to inhibit public comment on development and other important issues.
However, this law does not prevent lawsuits against people who are corresponding with their elected representatives by email. It will be interesting to see whether the citizens who Supervisor Burton has been corresponding with are named in any "tortious interference" lawsuits in the future.
Two more items of note from this issue. First, I will simply quote from the Loudoun Times.
Chairman Scott York (I-at large), himself FOIAed on occasion, then demanded to know why Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), also FOIAed, has not complied with a request to turn over his list of newsletter subscribers. The reason why, according to Delgaudio, is that his newsletter is paid for by his own political action committee.Does anyone else want to know why a county supervisor needs a political action committee? Or why having such a committee should make a politician immune from disclosure requirements?
And second, at the time of this entry, this was the first paragraph from that Loudoun Times story.
The question of are they "getting it enough?” is crass and inappropriate for a newspaper Web site and it will not be addressed here. Sorry. We can’t go there. But in terms of getting it, we now know that Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) will not be getting his request granted to dim some of the sunshine cast by the Freedom of Information Act.Sounds like an editor might have missed something, there.