Milari Madison: Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

Milari Madison of Loudoun County, Virginia is the winner of this week’s coveted and increasingly prestigious Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week award.

Madison has earned this award because for filing a FOIA, a powerful county supervisor sent her name and contact information to his large e-mail list. On of them responded with the vulgar, childish and demeaning assertion that Milari filed the FOIA because she wasn’t “getting enough” at home.

The county supervisor also denied the request until he was set straight on an important sunshine principle.

Here’s the story.

Madison is a property rights activist. There are controversies over development issues in Loudoun County. It occurred to Madison that it would be valuable to know who was communicating with the members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Makes perfect sense to me. Part of open government is knowing who your government representatives are talking to, and who talks to them.

So, Madison sent a FOIA under Virginia’s open records law asking to see who was on the e-mail list of Supervisor Jim Burton.

Supervisor Jim Burton retaliated by sending out a mass e-mail to that very list telling them about Madison’s request, including her contact information.

One of Jim Burton’s e-mail buddies responded this way:

“Milari Madison just needs to be ignored. [She is] obviously not getting it enough at home and [is] crying out for attention.”

I try to be at least vaguely professional here, so I won’t type what I’m thinking.

Then, Supervisor Burton contested the FOIA request, claiming that under a provision of Virginia’s public records law, ordinary citizens who receive notifications from the government are entitled to have their names and e-mail addresses shielded from public scrutiny.

He lost on this claim because that law applies to citizens who want to get official government updates, not people who are on the e-blast lists of government officials who use those e-blasts to send out news and to politically frame issues as they prefer.

So, Milari Madison’s open records request resulted in a teachable moment about FOIA and e-blasts that went the right way.

One notable element of this story is that Madison appears to generally be right-of-center. But, she has been defended in a no-holds-barred sort of way by Paradox, the progressive blogger who writes the apparently much-needed blog, Leesburg Tomorrow. (The local paper is called Leesburg Today.)

I must say, I was very touched to see this. Partisan advocacy too often trumps the normal belief in sunshine.

So, Paradox, you are the first designated Margaret Fell Honoree of the Lucy Burns Institute. Thank you.

As for you, Milari Madison, thank you and stay the course. We are proud and delighted to welcome you to the ranks of the STOTWs.

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2 responses to “Milari Madison: Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

  1. Pingback: Judge rules: Give me those emails you say are private «

  2. Leslie, you realize that the person who emailed Supervisor Burton that Milari Madison and I should be “ignored” by his government office because we were “not getting enough of it at home” was the very same Jeff Wolinski who is complaining on yours and other blogs that Ms. Waters should not provide FOIAd emails from him to her because they are “personal.”

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