WVPA Sharing

WV Press Association asking legislators to oppose Open Meetings, FOIA exemptions for the proposed Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit

WV Press News Sharing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Press Association, on behalf of the state’s newspapers and media organizations, is requesting state legislators oppose exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act and Open Government Proceedings Act in the language for the proposed Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit.

WVPA Executive Director Don Smith said the organization and media oppose such exemptions and support transparency and open government.

“State code cited exemptions to FOIA and the Open Meetings Act. Let the Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit claim the exemption when it gets a FOIA or has a closed meeting, if an exemption applies, but do not make the unit exempt from FOIA or the Open Meetings Act. There is a difference,” Smith said.

“Why should this organization be granted exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act and Open Government Proceedings Act? Where is the public benefit to such exemptions? We hope our legislators will question the request for such exemptions and strike them from the language.”

Smith said such votes on such legislation are important with the election just weeks away.

“How do legislators say they support open government and transparency and then vote to grant these exemptions. We hope voters follow the discussion today. We will share the voting results on the bill.”

The WVPA is reaching out to legislators with the following questions:

1 – Why should such exemptions be granted?
2 – Where is the public benefit?
3 – Who does benefit from the exemptions? Criminals? 
4 – How does granting such exemptions maintain transparency and open government? 

“We hope and encourage residents to reach out to their legislators today on this bill. We don’t need more government in the dark,” Smith said.

The proposed Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit, with the exemptions, is the fifth item on today’s special session call: 

To amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto
a new section, designated §21A-10-23, relating to authorizing the Commissioner of Workforce West Virginia to create an Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit; establishing training and experience requirements; specifying duties; granting certain authorities necessary to conduct investigations into alleged unemployment insurance fraud; authorizing certain personnel to operate a state vehicle and carry a firearm; establishing training requirements for carrying a firearm; and exempting the Unemployment Compensation Fraud Unit from the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Government Proceedings Act, and creating certain
immunities for acts of an investigator employed by the unit.

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