Summary

We are a nonprofit alliance formed to promote expanded access to government records, meetings and other proceedings at the state and local level. Our efforts are focused solely on local/state information access. While we do some lobbying (within limits imposed by IRS rules), our primary work is educational. The Coalition was formed in 1996, after a year-long organizing effort.

Our board of directors represents the state’s access activists and friends of open government, including Virginia’s librarians, genealogists, broadcasters, newspapers and the public at large. Start-up funding was provided by the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, Media General, the Landmark Communications Foundation, America Online, all of the major in-state newspapers, public radio and television stations, a number of commercial stations and other friends of open government.

Supporters also include Dominion, Appalachian Power, SunTrust, LexisNexis, Christian & Barton, Conservation Voters League, Woods Rogers, Gentry Locke.

Executive Director: Megan Rhyne

OnAir Post: Virginia Coalition for Open Government

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2021 Legislative Bill Chart

Source: VCOG website

News

Source: Website

Transparency News

Our free daily email alert will keep you up to date with right-to-know, transparency, First Amendment and related issues in Virginia and around the country. The alert goes out 5 mornings a week and provides links to news stories, articles and commentaries, as well as updates on open government issues at the General Assembly or interim study commissions.

Sunshine Report

The Sunshine Report goes out at the beginning of each month and includes updates on the work of the Coalition, summaries of the most significant open government stories of the previous month and greater explanations of current hot topics.

January 2021
FOIA Council endorses some proposals, rejects others.

The FOIA Council lent its divided support to a proposal that would expand the number of times and circumstances under which an individual member of a public body can call into a meeting instead of attending in person. VCOG does not support the measure and actively opposed an attempt by a letter-writing campaign to remove any and all barriers to call-in participation. The measure was pushed as one that would allow more women to run for political office, but council member Bill Coleburn — both the mayor of Blackstone and publisher of the local newspaper — pushed back on that notion: “You don’t go knockin’ on doors and say ‘You know what, if I get elected by golly I’m going to legislate through my laptop and fight for you.”

The council unanimously supported a measure VCOG worked on with the Virginia Press Association, Virginia Municipal League and Virginia Association of Counties to amend the existing rules for virtual meetings held during an emergency to allow public bodies to discuss more than just the specific emergency. The pandemic laid bare the problem of extended emergencies and the inability of public bodies to talk about providing the everyday services of government.

The council endorsed a proposal to clarify that citizen contact information would not be disclosed when citizens sign-up for one-way communication from their elected representatives, but the council rejected an attempt that would have allowed government to redact the contact information of citizens whenever they interact with government officials or employees. VCOG spoke against the measure.

Finally, the council unanimously endorsed a proposal to provide some measure of access to criminal investigative files that are no longer active or ongoing, a measure VCOG strongly supports.

— Megan Rhyne

Resources

Source: VCOG webpage

Virginia Press Association’s Reporters’ Guide to FOIA (VPA website)
Click here

Need help with federal FOIA? VCOG’s focus on the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, but this link will take you to an easy to understand info-graphic on the federal FOIA process. (blog on Logikcull)
Click here

How does Virginia compare with other states? Check out the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Open Government Guide, which breaks down all state laws along categories. (RCFP website)
Click here

What kind of FOIA training do police chiefs get? Check out the FOIA guide for the Association of Chiefs of Police (note: it has not been updated since 2006) (Chiefs of Police website)
Click here

What kind of FOIA training does the Virginia Municipal League give its members? (VML website)
Click here

In February 2019, the Department of Education issued this 37-question FAQ on FERPA (the Federal Educational Rights & Privacy Act) and student scholastic information. (VCOG website)
Click here