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Documents sought in FOIA suit
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
A copy of a $600 canceled check and certain credit card statements will be given to Mary Sue Terry by the end of the week, according to statements made Monday in Patrick County Circuit Court.
Patrick County Schools Superintendent Roger Morris told his attorney he thought those items could be compiled by the end of the week, and possibly by today.
The comments came Monday during a hearing on a suit filed by Terry that named Morris and Assistant Superintendent Dean Gilbert. The suit claimed that some school officials violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by either responding in part or redacting some legally public information to certain FOIA requests.
For instance, Terry, a former Virginia attorney general who lives in Patrick County, alleged in court that she had requested certain credit card statements but instead was given a summary of charges.
Also at issue during the hearing was a $600 check from the central (school board) office to Stuart Elementary School. The check allegedly was intended to reimburse that school for a $600 credit card charge.
Terry’s suit also claimed the alleged FOIA violations were willful.
Testifying Monday were Gilbert, Morris and Stuart Elementary School Principal Tammy Waldron, who also is the school’s bookkeeper.
Waldron testified that the check intended to reimburse Stuart Elementary for the $600 credit card charge was from the school board office. She said she did not have a copy of the check with her, and school officials said they were not certain they could get a copy from the bank.
Gilbert was asked about certain school policies regarding the use of credit cards at individual schools. Morris was asked to verify certain copies of documents including deposit slips and checks.
Circuit Court Judge Martin Clark asked school officials to make a good faith effort to get a copy of the check.
He also ruled that retired teacher Ann Belcher, acting as Terry’s representative, will monitor the process of compiling the credit card statements.
Clark said he did not think that school officials willingly violated FOIA because they had cooperated with Terry’s requests by providing some documents.
Before any future suits regarding FOIA are filed Clark said Terry and Morris must meet.
“I apologize to our staff for having to go through this,” School Board Chairman Bobby Mangrum said after the hearing.
Morris said he “appreciates the staff who have worked very hard” on the FOIA requests, and “I look forward to future conversations with” Terry.