Delegate Lynwood Lewis has decided to take an Eastern Shore feud to Richmond in the form of HB 2383 ostensibly to prevent harassment by a requester.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); court review in cases of requester harassment. Allows any public body to petition an appropriate court for a summary determination whether a requester, in making a request for records, is intending to harass or otherwise abuse the rights or privileges granted by FOIA or whether such request is overly burdensome on the public body.
But if you want to know what is behind this, you need to review a couple of past Virginia Right! blog posts.
These will give you a bit of background on what is going on with these dysfunctional Virginia neighbors.
Lynwood Lewis was, at some point, the town attorney for more than one Eastern Shore town, but has seemed more than willing to continue injecting himself in this feud. As a Delegate, it was probably ill advised to take positions as town attorney – especially for more than one town – but certainly not illegal.
And it can lead to a situation where a Town Attorney, who also happens to be a Delegate, is tempted to tweak the law to his advantage.
But in this case, the Eastern Shore Old Boy network seems to have spilled from the Eastern Shore and the feud has now moved to the Virginia General Assembly, which is shameful.
Eastern Shore resident John Smith and the town of Hallwood, Virginia have been involved in a back and forth with each other for years. Things have been done and said by both sides that are less than admirable, to be sure.
And there is no doubt that both sides have used the system to elevate this feud to an expensive and wasteful battle between strong willed and stubborn individuals.
There may be some merit to the issues that Delegate Lewis raises in this bill, but there is also no doubt that, if passed, this law would be used to tie up FOIA requests in court and add expensive legal proceedings to a process that was supposed to make it easy for citizens to find out what is going on in government.
If passed, there is no doubt in my mind that any and all FOIA requests submitted by John Smith would end up in court, requiring Smith to hire an attorney and fight for each and every request.
This bill is designed to act as a roadblock to the Freedom of Information Act and will allow reverse harassment, if you will, by the government.
Delegate Lewis: You need to find another way to deal with Mr. Smith. We do not appreciate you taking a personal feud statewide and stomping on the rights of Virginians to a free and open government.
You do not need another way to crush citizens with a court battle for each and every FOIA request.
In the first post on the subject, I called on Delegate Lewis to step up and be a leader, rather than just another tool to continue this feud. Although I have not spoken to Mr. Smith in over a year, I can see this continues to boil in Hallwood.
This is a two way feud. Delegate Lewis and the town of Hallwood’s hands are just as dirty as John Smith’s. The back and forth and tit for tat must stop.
HB 2383 does not solve a problem, it only escalates it. This bill is an embarrassment and an affront to open and honest government.
You guys on the Eastern Shore do not need legislation to solve your problems.
You need mediation and perhaps counseling. And prayer. Lots of prayer.