Judge denies KW EDA Chairman Hodges' FOIA request for Supervisor Hansen's supposed tapes of public meetings

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

A Freedom of Information Act request to obtain video recordings of public meetings that may have been made by King William Supervisor David Hansen has been denied.

At a Thursday morning trial in King William County Circuit Court, Judge B. Elliott Bondurant denied King William Economic Development Authority chairman Brian Hodges' Freedom of Information Act request for recordings of public meetings that Hansen supposedly made.

Nearly 20 county residents sat in the court audience waiting to hear the decision.

The case first went to trial on Aug. 16 at King William County General District Court, where Hansen revealedthere were no tape recordings of the meetings and that he set up the camera to hold other public officials accountable.

At the previous trial, Richmond General District Court Judge Barbara Gaden was not convinced there were no tapes and ordered Hansen to send Hodges the recordings, if they exist, by Aug. 27. Hansen then filed an appeal with the King William Circuit Court.

At the Thursday morning trial, Hodges, who represented himself, said Hansen set up a video camera in the audience at a May 15 Economic Development Authority meeting, a May 21 Board of Supervisors meeting and a June 11 joint EDA and supervisors meeting.

Hodges said they were under the impression that Hansen was recording the meetings, was addressed as Supervisor Hansen during an EDA public comment period and acted as supervisor during the May 21 and June 11 meetings.

Hodges then emailed Hansen a FOIA request for any and all recordings of public meetings that he may or may not have made. Hansen responded back that he is a private citizen and that Hodges should look at Virginia’s FOIA laws.

Hodges argued that Hansen is always acting as a supervisor, intentionally or unintentionally, if county business is being discussed and that Hansen, in his role as a supervisor, appoints members to the EDA.

Hansen’s defense argued that if he recorded the EDA meeting it was as a private citizen, that supervisor is a title and how Hansen is known around the community.

Hansen’s attorney also argued that FOIA applies to public bodies and it’s officers, and Hansen was acting as a citizen when he set the camera up.

Bondurant ruled there is no evidence that supports that Hansen was acting as a supervisor and denied the FOIA request.

Virginia Coalition for Open Government executive director Megan Rhyne said only judges can use their discretion on whether or not a person was acting under a private or public capacity, but records that are about public business are under disclosure for FOIA.

“Even if those records are on private devices or sent from or received on private accounts,” Rhyne said. “FOIA also does not require records to be maintained in a certain way or certain length of time, so if someone were to delete records that would not be a FOIA violation.”

Hodges said he is weighing his options in moving forward. Hansen could not be reached for comment.

Review archives were used in this story.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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