Richmond General District Court found Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) guilty of violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on Friday. Filler-Corn must pay a civil penalty of $500 and a partial reimbursement of attorney fees.
The filing attorney, Timothy Anderson, told The Virginia Star that this court ruling was a big win for Virginians. Anderson also shared that the judge had expressed doubt during the trial that Filler-Corn didn’t know about the documents.
“For the judge to say that, he had to find her statement untrue. There’s even an email back in July from the House clerk that said the Speaker directed the removal. So, she had to have known. [We discovered] 80 documents when all was said and done,” stated Anderson. “When the Speaker wrote back [to my client] and said ‘the documents do not exist,’ the only way to interpret that is that they don’t exist.”
Filler-Corn wasn’t present at the trial.
Anderson stated that his client, David Webster II, was the real reason for their win. Without Webster’s pursuit of the truth, there wouldn’t be a case at all. In an interview with The Virginia Star, Webster said that it was his honor to take on the matter.
“Although, God help any Virginians who wants to right any wrong: it cost me thousands of dollars just to file a lawsuit. At least it’ll teach public officials that they can’t ignore a valid FOIA request.”
According to Webster, he first filed an FOIA request at the end of July. Webster asked Filler-Corn for documentation that showed who she’d hired, what she paid, and where the monuments are placed currently. Filler-Corn replied that all of the requested records were nonexistent.
Dissatisfied, Webster filed suit against Filler-Corn a little over a week later. He later discovered some of the documents that Filler-Corn stated didn’t exist. According to the documents, Filler-Corn paid over $83,000 for a company to conduct overnight removal of the historical monuments.
Although the court ruled in Webster’s favor, he says there’s more information he still desires.
“She still has yet to say where the artifacts from the Capitol are. We asked the judge to ask her where they are, but we couldn’t get that information. At the very least, she should make a public statement on what she did, who she hired, how much she paid, and where [the artifacts] are now.”
The spokesperson for Filler-Corn didn’t respond with comment by press time.
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