Sustained Outrage

We’ve reported before on the important Freedom of Information Act case in which The Shepherdstown Observer is trying to get copies of the petitions filed to get a zoning matter on the ballot in Jefferson County.

See previous posts here, here and here.

And now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 8-1 that people who sign petitions to put referendums on state ballots do not have a general right under the First Amendment to keep their names secret. According to The New York Times:

The near-unanimity of the decision masked a deep division on a more focused question that the justices left for another day: Are there good reasons to protect the identities of people who signed petitions concerning a measure opposing gay rights and say they fear harassment and retaliation should their names be posted on the Internet?

The Court’s opinion is available here, and there’s much more about the case available from The Scotus Wiki here, including this analysis:

By a broad eight-to-one majority in an opinion by the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court today held in Doe v. Reed that signatories of referendum petitions generally do not have a constitutional right – i.e., a right that would trump state open government laws – to keep their identities private. But the Court held – again, by the same broad majority – that courts should consider in any given case whether a particular referendum presents sufficiently unique circumstances that anonymity is required. It therefore permitted the claim to anonymity in this case, which involves a referendum on gay rights, to proceed in the lower courts. But their chances of prevailing appear very slim, as five members of the Court either expressed significant doubts about their claim or expressly rejected it.

The Martinsburg Journal had a story on the Supreme Court ruling’s possible impact on the West Virginia case, and here’s a right-up from The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Oral arguments in the West Virginia case are set for Sept. 8.

It’s another good week for open government in West Virginia. No meetings listed in today’s issue of The State Register violated the public notice requirements of West Virginia’s open meetings law.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.

DuPont’s report on the fatal phosgene leak

We reported yesterday on Sustained Outrage and today in the Gazette about the DuPont Co.’s report on the series of January accidents, including the phosgene leak that killed plant worker Danny Fish.

Well, today, we finally got a copy of the report, thanks to the state Department of  Environmental Protection.

But wait … the version WVDEP released is the sanitized one — provided by DuPont with all of the material it claimed as “confidential business information” removed.

I’ve posted a copy of it here. But don’t expect to find much … DuPont submitted a 31-page report to WVDEP, and claimed 24 entire pages as confidential.

It’s a great week for open government in West Virginia, because today’s edition of The State Register lists no meetings that failed to comply with the public notice requirements of the state’s open meetings law.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.

Secret meetings, June 11, 2010

Not a bad week for open government in West Virginia. Today’s issue of The State Register only contained one meeting notice that violated the public notification requirements of the state’s open meetings act.

The agency at fault? The West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.

Secret meetings, June 4, 2010

It was a pretty good week for open government in West Virginia. The latest edition of the State Register does not list any meetings that failed to comply with the public notice requirements of the state’s Open Meeting Act.

But last week’s Register included one meeting that did not comply. The agency at fault was the Partnership to Promote Community Well-Being’s Underage Drinking Prevention Workshop.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.

Secret meetings, May 14, 2010

My duties covering the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster have kept me away from the weekly review of open meetings notices in the State Register for the last month.

And I’m pleased to report that today’s issue of the Register contains not a single meeting that violates the public notice requirements of West Virginia’s open meetings law.

But, a review of the Register over the weeks I missed revealed seven violations by different agencies of those public notice requirements. The offending agencies were: The Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority, the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee of the Criminal Services Division, the Public Service Commission’s Tower Access Assistant Fund Review Committee, the Board of Physical Therapy, the Region 7 Workforce Investment Board, the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, and the Shepherd University Board of Governors.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.

Remember back in late January, when the federal Chemical Safety Board said it wanted a preliminary report on the safety problems at the DuPont Co. Belle plant within 30 days?

Well … we still don’t know what the preliminary report said. And we don’t have much more information about what the CSB is — or isn’t — up to regarding its investigation of the string of leaks at DuPont, including the phosgene release that killed plant worker Danny Fish.

I tried this week to find out what was up, and all I’ve gotten out of the CSB is this short statement:

A report of investigative team’s initial deployment activities to the board has taken place. We are evaluating documents received and are awaiting test results on equipment involved in the incidents. Cooperation from the company continues to be very good. A full report of the three incidents is anticipated and will be developed as information becomes more concrete.


Secret meetings, April 2, 2010

lockeddoor

It’s another good week  for open government in West Virginia, at least as far as compliance with the public notice requirements of the open meeting act go.  For the third week in a row, no meetings posted in the State Register violate the public notice requirements.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.

Secret meetings, March 26, 2010

lockeddoor

It’s a great week for open government in West Virginia, at least as far as public notice of meetings is concerned. Today’s issue of The State Register didn’t contain a single meeting that violated the public notice requirements of West Virginia’s open meetings law.

As we’ve reminded folks before, the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act requires agencies to send meeting notices to the Secretary of State in time for notices to appear in the State Register five days prior to a scheduled meeting. Every week, we list the agencies that didn’t comply, thanks to the Secretary of State’s office, which kindly marks those agencies with an asterisk in the list of meetings published each Friday in the Register.