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Some supervisors irked by information requests


By Sally Voth svoth@nvdaily.com

Shenandoah County Administrator Doug Walker has been asked to provide the Board of Supervisors with the number of requests he's had this summer for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

He was also directed to provide the board at its Aug. 28 meeting the length of time it has taken county staff to comply with the requests and from where the requests originated.

Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley made the request at the panel's meeting Tuesday morning, saying the county had gotten "a tremendous amount" of FOIA requests this summer.

"All the FOIA requests have been public meetings and discussions and information that's very public," District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said during the meeting. "I don't know if there's any way to compare the amount of time of these meetings and discussions and decisions in regards to the FOIA requests. Just a tremendous amount of time being wasted on issues that have transpired many years ago and have been very public and they are on our site."

The supervisors have come under scrutiny this year from residents vehemently opposed to the RSW Regional Jail project.

The RSW Regional Jail Authority in June directed its attorney to explore whether legal action could be taken against some of those opponents, which it blames for causing a delay in a bonds sale that resulted in a higher interest rate on financing.

The Northern Virginia Daily has made one FOIA request to the county this summer. Another request was made in the spring and involved correspondence surrounding the regional jail project.

The Daily's requests included email correspondence that is not on the county's website.

While it may be appropriate to recoup the staffing costs of complying with the requests for information, such requests shouldn't be hindered, District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson said.

"To me, the FOIA request is a service provided to the citizens no different than any other service we provide," he said. "If they request it, it's our job to provide it. I don't think by any stretch of the imagination or any action we take should limit or discourage anyone who wants information. It may be time-consuming, it may be a lot of them right now."

Baroncelli responded to Ferguson's comments.

"The comparison there is the FOIA request versus the clarity and the public discussions have been out there," she said. "All these FOIA requests are not things we're doing in closed session or behind the scenes. What is being asked for has been discussed in public. Ad nauseum."

In an interview after the discussion and while the supervisors were in a closed session, Walker said he didn't know the exact number of FOIA requests that had come in.

"There certainly was a period when we were working through the regional jail financing issue [where] there were a lot of requests for information," he said.

Information requests that take more than a half-hour for a staff member to assemble are billed for the time at that employee's hourly rate, Walker said. He said whenever possible, an employee with the lowest salary who is capable of handling the request will do so.

While most requests are processed electronically, the person making the request would be charged 50 cents per DVD if the information is burned to disc, and 2 cents for black-and-white paper copies and 6 cents for color ones.




12 Comments



It sounds as if our Supervisors have forgotten who they work for and why they are in the offices they hold. Perhaps their next re-election attempt can serve as a gentle reminder?

It stinks to be forced to operate under an air of transparency and not be able to hide behind the doors of the County Office Building. Hopefully with the next few election cycles, the current slate will be replaced by new supervisors. Don't think it can happen? Call down to the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney and see who picks up the phone; it's not the ShenCo Machine's Candidate....

Well, well, well, so the supervisor does not want to rehash the past. Sounds like she was one that voted for the jail and then complains about citizens" right to seek out information to understand. Watch out citizens, I see that "trouble makers fee" being passed soon to cover too many FOI requests sponsored by supervisor Barroncelli. Keep asking the questions and hopefully the NVD will keep the story up a little longer than the last story on this topic.

So, Sharon Baroncelli thinks these FOIA requests are "---being asked for has been discussed in public. Ad Nauseum." I remember the first time she ran for her office. At that time it was not too much trouble for her to show up at every public event, "ad nauseum", to go from person to person to tell us why we should vote for her.
How soon some elected officials forget how they got where they are. We need to remember this at election time.

Conrad and Sharon apparently have allowed their elected position to go to their heads - a problem that this nation has also been facing with the elected officials in Washington. When did we become "We the represented" and not "We the People?" Aren't these people elected to do the bidding of the PEOPLE and not themselves or what they perceive as what is wanted by the PEOPLE? All decisions should be decided by the people and NOT THESE PEOPLE!!! Send it to election and let THE PEOPLE decide on what is best for US. We don't need idiots representing us and by idiot I mean those who have their own agendas and not one FOR THE PEOPLE.

Baroncelli for Dictator!

Whenever she gets in a position of authority, it gors to her head and she thinks she can do whatever she wants.

WWAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!! ...people new to this issue need to learn the facts...isn't that what citizens are always accused of --not knowing the facts?

As a citizen who's take the time to look into ordinances and meeting minutes and purchasing copies of budgets and comprehensive plans (on other issues) to make sure they have the facts right, it's a lot of work on the citizen too.

I commend people who take the time to check out the facts and if some on the BOS don't like it, they can remove themselves and hopefully never need to use FOIA themselves...

The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisor’s should be asking themselves “Why is there such an increase in FOIA requests? Why the sudden public interest in how they are governing? Clearly, they are intimidated by all these requests. Directing Walker to collect a list of who requested what information, doesn’t make sense to me, but nothing this board has done in regards to borrowing, building, and spending over the last three to five years has made any sense to me either. Let me remind the county board, FOIA means FREEDOM of Information Act, it is not a service they “have” to provide it is “THE LAW” they have to follow. Maybe they should consult “their” taxpayer funded attorney about the difference.

Thank you Cindy and Mark Prince for trying to fight against the good old boys politics in this county. But the same ignorant rednecks will vote the scum back in again, That is the reason I have given the fact up that at least I am the right state to say the faster I can get away from the good old boy network in this county I am so out of here.

People always get defensive when they have something to hide or something they were hoping would go away. Maybe no one will notice what I have or have not done. Something stinks in this county. Please keep the heat on, keep digging. We are going somewhere finally, thanks to Mark, Cindy and everyone else who has questioned the communism in Shenandoah County. It has spread from Strasburg to the entire county. It needs to stop. I think this jail project envolves something or someone higher up in the chain. Starting to remind me of The Pelican Brief movie.

The Free Press ran an article this week titled "Debating the Public's Right to Know".

The last paragraph shows another attempt by the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors to silence, intimidate and interfere with free speech.

It reads:
But it wasn’t just the FOIA issue that has aroused Baroncelli’s ire lately. She has tired of public backlash against the board and wants better comportment at public meetings.
A few months ago she lamented that many citizens speaking to the board were loud and rude. She wants to tone down the rhetoric.
Baroncelli said Tuesday that Jay Litten, the county government’s attorney, is preparing guidelines for conduct. How those guidelines will be implemented is not yet known.


The Free Press ran an article this week titled "Debating the Public's Right to Know".

The last paragraph shows another attempt by the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors to silence, intimidate and interfere with free speech.

It reads:
But it wasn’t just the FOIA issue that has aroused Baroncelli’s ire lately. She has tired of public backlash against the board and wants better comportment at public meetings.
A few months ago she lamented that many citizens speaking to the board were loud and rude. She wants to tone down the rhetoric.
Baroncelli said Tuesday that Jay Litten, the county government’s attorney, is preparing guidelines for conduct. How those guidelines will be implemented is not yet known.




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