Tight Lips

Despite ruling, city won’t release confidentiality agreement.

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A Richmond judge tossed out a FOIA lawsuit last week that sought a copy of the confidentiality agreement that city administrators required City Council members sign before briefing them on the mysterious departure of Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall.

The city insisted that the document swearing City Council to secrecy itself was secret.

But even as Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Jeter Taylor threw out the case requesting the document, she wrote the she doubts that it’s exempt from disclosure as the city had argued.

She said the reason she dismissed the case against the city was because the plaintiff, former school board member Carol A.O. Wolf, hadn’t properly requested it.

“If properly made the subject of an otherwise valid FOIA request,” Taylor wrote, “the court would be inclined to order production of the document.”

The city argued that Wolf had asked for a list of City Council members who signed the document, rather than the document itself, and that under state FOIA laws, the city isn’t obligated to create documents that don’t exist. (Wolf’s lawyer had argued in court that she had orally requested agreement itself in a follow-up conversation with city staff.)

In either case, Style Weekly explicitly requested a copy of the agreement in September, which the city also denied. And despite Judge Taylor’s ruling, city leaders don’t appear eager to reconsider that initial decision.

The mayor’s press secretary, Tammy Hawley, hasn’t responded to two emails left Monday and Tuesday morning requesting an update on the status of Style’s request.

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