West Virginia Record

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Freelance reporter files three FOIA suits

By Kyla Asbury | Mar 28, 2013

CHARLESTON - A freelance reporter who contributes to the West Virginia Record filed three Freedom of Information lawsuits last week in Kanawha and Jackson counties.

The defendants in the lawsuits are the West Virginia State Police and Col. Jay Smithers; Blaine Hess and the Jackson County Board of Education; and Teresa Tarr and the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission.

Jay Lawrence Smith filed the suits on March 12 in Kanawha and Jackson circuit courts.

Smith claims the defendants failed to provide him copies of documents he requested under FOIA requests, despite giving them ample time to do so.

The State Police and Smithers failed to provide Smith with settlement documents from a lawsuit involving Glenna Sue Conley, despite requesting the information in June, according to the complaints.

Smith claims he requested the information several times between June and January and was told the settlement documents were not available.

An attorney for the State Police assured Smith she would let him know when the documents were available, but Smith never heard back from her, according to the suit.

Smith claims he requested the total number of complaints filed by year against 27 circuit judges and family law judges/masters and on Sept. 12, Tarr requested an extension, which he granted.

However, on Sept. 24, Tarr denied Smith's FOIA request, according to the suit.

Smith claims Tarr previously granted a FOIA request for similar information to Keith DeBlasio, but she informed Smith on Oct. 9 that she was standing by her denial for the information.

In his final demand, Smith amended his original Sept. 7 request to include seven additional current and/or former judicial officers, according to the suit. However, on Feb. 5, Tarr once again denied his request.

Smith claims he requested settlement documents on May 14, 2011, and June 15, 2011, from Hess and the Jackson County Board of Education for three cases.

On June 3, 2011, and June 20, 2011, the board responded to Smith's FOIA requests and provided most but not all of the information, Smith says.

Smith claims on June 29, 2011, he informed the board and Hess that unless it provided the information that was previously denied, he would consider it a denial of his request and bring suit to compel the release of information.

Smith is seeking for the court to declare the defendants' refusals to disclose the records request unlawful; grant injunctive relief, enjoining the defendants from withholding records without justification and ordering production to Smith of records improperly withheld; and grant a permanent injunction requiring the defendants to undergo training for better understanding of West Virginia code. He is representing himself.

The Kanawha cases have been assigned to circuit judges Charles E. King and Paul Zakaib Jr. The Jackson case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Thomas C. Evans III.

Smith is not seeking the records as part of an assignment given to him by the West Virginia Record.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers: 13-C-483, 13-C-484

Jackson Circuit Court case number: 13-C-27

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