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In Cuccinelli’s office, there’s nothing free about freedom of information
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office is proving that there’s nothing free about Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, certainly not when it comes to requests about communications with Star Scientific and its embattled but generous CEO, Jonnie Williams Sr.
Roanoke Times reporter David Ress asked the attorney general’s office for records of communications that Cuccinelli or his staff has had with Williams about the $1.7 million in state taxes and penalties that Star Scientific is contesting in court. Ress noted on the newspaper’s Blue Ridge Caucus blog that he also wanted to find out if Cuccinelli and Gov. Bob McDonnell or members of their staffs had traded thoughts on the issue.
Ress was informed that the attorney general’s office bills at a rate of $53.65 an hour to look through its files and emails, and that fulfilling his request would cost at least $14,400. That amount of money could almost pay for five family getaways at Williams’ Smith Mountain Lake vacation home, based on Cuccinelli’s gift disclosure reports. A senior assistant attorney general helpfully suggested that Ress narrow his request.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld Virginia’s decision to deny public records to out-of-state residents under the Freedom of Information Act. By charging exorbitant fees for those records, Cuccinelli’s office doesn’t treat Virginia residents with any more favor.
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