Marshall files first bill related to U-Va. clash with Cuccinelli
Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) is sponsoring a bill that would allow public employees to be terminated or otherwise disciplined if they knowingly violate public information laws.
Behind the proposed legislation, which he has filed for consideration when the General Assembly convenes next month, is the now hotly contested events surrounding the tenure of climate researcher Michael Mann at the University of Virginia.
Mann left the university in 2005 and is now a professor at Penn State University.
It's a good bet Marshall's won't be the only bill related to Mann's work that legislators consider next year. Democrats have been incensed by an effort by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to use the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act to compel the university to turn over documents related to Mann's work.
Cuccinelli has said he wants to see whether a fraud investigation would be warranted into Mann's work, which showed that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. The university is fighting the subpoena in court and there's a good chance Democrats could file legislation to curb the attorney general's powers of subpoena under the act.
At issue for Marshall is a request he made to the University of Virginia prior to Cuccinell's subpoena, in which he asked for some of the same documents using the Freedom of Information Act.
The university at first told Marshall it no longer had access to the documents he sought. But in response to Cuccinelli's subpoena, it has acknowledged that it has a backup server that contains some of the records. The university has now told Marshall that the costs of preparing the documents he seeks would total $8,000.
"When a public institution says they don't have any documents and they do, that's wrong," Marshall said.
As for the $8,000 price tag, Marshall said, "it's ridiculous that they would tell the public, whom they're supposed to work for, that they have to pay to get public information -- and pay through the nose."
He said he'll be filing a second bill that requires that all documents created by any public official be labeled as subject to public information laws or shielded from them at the time of their creation. That way, he argued, it would be easier and cheaper to compile documents when citizens request them.
Rosalind S. Helderman
| December 2, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman
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