Writer sues Cabell County Commission over FOIA requests

HUNTINGTON -- After not being able to obtain information, a Putnam County freelance legal researcher and writer is suing Cabell County Commission under the Freedom of Information Act. On Sept. 3, 2009, Jay Lawrence Smith learned a tentative settlement was reached in a civil action before the court and submitted a FOIA request to the defendant by e-mail and U.S. certified mail, according to a complaint filed May 10 in Cabell Circuit Court. Smith claims he received a response through e-mail on Sept. 6 from Steven Nord, the Commission's legal counsel, who acknowledged a settlement had been reached but it had not received final approval from the court. On Oct. 26, 2009, Smith learned Circuit Judge David M. Pancake signed the order finalizing the settlement on Sept. 24, according to the suit. Smith claims at no time between Sept. 24 and Oct. 26 was he contacted by either the Commission or Nord that the order was finalized. On Nov. 2, Smith again wrote to the defendant requesting the information. He claims between November 2009 and January 2010 he engaged in several conversations with Nord reguarding the FOIA request. Nord informed Smith that the Commission was "uncomfortable releasing the settlement due to a confidentiality agreement..." and that he would attempt to work with the civil case's plaintiff's attorney to obtain permission to release the Commission from the confidentiality agreement, according to the suit. Smith claims he has still not received the information. The information Smith requested falls within the definition of a public record, according to the suit. Smith is seeking for the court to grant injunctive relief, enjoining the defendant from withholding records and declare the defendant's refusal to disclose records unlawful. He is representing himself. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge F. Jane Hustead. Smith previously has filed two similar law suits under FOIA in 2010. Cabell Circuit Court case number: 10-C-368

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