FOIAs and Ethics – Collaboration between Shelley and Lieberman

We will give a recap on the 9/13 School Board Meeting in the upcoming days.  However, there is one item that caught our attention that we want to write about now.   It speaks towards possible corruption or collusion involving school board candidate Rich Lieberman and school board Chair Dawn Shelley.   In public comment, speaker Wendy Carver stated the following:

“Last week I submitted a Freedom of Information Request.  I emailed my request to the FOIA officer listed for Spotsylvania which is Dr. Martin on Monday September 6.  I asked for specific emails for a specific time period.    I have not yet received the information I have asked for so if you can imagine my surprise when I saw a YouTube video Thursday evening from the candidate for Lee’s Hill referencing the exact information I requested just days prior. Somehow my FOIA request appears to have been sent outside official channels and again I the person who requested the information in the first place still do not have what I requested.  Please help me understand how that makes any sense”

Around the 6 hour and 6-minute mark of the 9/13 school board meeting, School board member Rabih Abuismail asks Ms Shelley about the situation expressed by Ms Carver.  Shelley admits providing FOIA information to another “private citizen”.   She is clearly referencing Lieberman.  Shelley attempts to dance around mentioning Lieberman’s name.  In Lieberman’s YouTube video from 9/8, he references email exchanges with School Board member Lisa Phelps which was the exact information requested in the FOIA. 

We will continue to dig on this story because it has broader implications with regards to ethics and possible corruption. Is it ok for a school board chair or school administration to contact a political candidate running for office and give them precise information from a FOIA request that was not properly fulfilled by the administration? Is this how Spotsylvania schools operates with FOIA requests ?

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