Today I had my hearing in Norfolk Circuit Court on my petition that the City of Norfolk FOIA office needs to do their job and follow the law when doing it.
First, let me state that Adam Melita, the attorney for the Defense (City of Norfolk) is a class act. He argued the city’s case very well, and treated me with respect on both occasions I have met him this month. He even offered a handshake after the hearing with a “Good Job Mr. Hurst”. I appreciate that. I hope the City of Norfolk does too. His demeanor and talent would be a great fit for the next appointment to City Attorney.
I think I held my own against the best the city could throw at me, and I scored more than a few major hits in return. The city had to admit they made technical violations of the law and didn't do the best job giving the legally required justifications for more time. The best part was I was allowed to question the defense’s witness, Norfolk Public Affairs Manager Michelle Washington, and got her to admit she used to be an editor for the Pilot. Clearly she didn't want the Judge to know she used to deal with FOIA requests from the flip side of the city in her previous job. It makes it a lot harder to claim ignorance of the process when you've been on both ends of it. And that was a main point of mine… I made it very clear what I was asking for, but still got the runaround.
Will the judge find in favor of my petition, and agree the technical violations still violated my rights? Will he agree that the procedure employed by Washington and staff is insufficient and too general when invoking a seven-day extension? We’ll see. We still have the opportunity to submit written arguments over the course of the next week, then an opinion/ruling from the judge, hopefully within a month of that.
Needless to say, if I see a lack of transparency or poorly managed local or state government, I will hold it accountable… even personally. I did give Norfolk City Council two opportunities to publicly announce an investigation to this and I would have stepped back. They did not, so I felt someone must.
To see how this all started, visit: http://terryhurst.com/norfolk-foia-fiasco
Press Release for the first scheduled hearing date: http://terryhurst.com/content/hurst-foia-suit-against-city-set-oct-10th-court-date
First Hearing - Judge Recusal: http://terryhurst.com/content/judge-recusal-delays-foia-hearing