Leigh Purdum: Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

Our 14th Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week award goes to Leigh Purdum of Madison County, Virginia.

A judge just ruled that Madison County Sheriff Erik Weaver must pay a $250 fine and Leigh’s court fees because the sheriff “willfully” violated Virginia’s open records law.

Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

The sheriff refused to give Ms. Purdum the names of people he had just appointed to a “citizen’s advisory council”. Ms. Purdum used to work for Sheriff Weaver.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Weaver is insisting that Purdum’s request is “a personal attack veiled in a FOIA request” and calling her a “former disgruntled employee”. According to the judge’s ruling, Weaver has to pay the $250 fine out of his own pocket so the taxpayers don’t have to pay for his mistake.

According to Virginia FOIA experts, this is the first time that a judge has imposed a fine on a public official for willful violation of the state’s laws.

Nearly every state’s public records law says that public officials aren’t entitled to inquire as to the purpose of a FOIA request. That’s true in Virginia, where the code says:

The purpose or motivation behind a request is irrelevant to a citizen’s entitlement to requested information.

It is unprofessional, at a minimum, for the Sheriff to continue to attack Ms. Purdum in this unseemly manner.

Merry Christmas to you, Ms. Purdum, and welcome to the hardy and inspiring ranks of STOTWs.

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