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Staunton City Council votes to pay legal fees in FOIA case

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 6:30 PM EST
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — At the last meeting, Staunton City Council voted for the city to pay the legal fees of Council Woman Brenda Mead and Mayor Andrea Oakes following their 2020 FOIA court case.

“She should have responded to Ms. Mead’s email, not even as a legal thing, but just as a courtesy,” Councilwoman Carolyn Dull explained.

“She could have picked up the phone and said, ‘hey Andrea, I need this document,’ and I would have said ‘oh fine, no problem,’” Mayor Oakes explained.

Last fall, Mead filed suit after claiming her rights under the Freedom of Information Act were violated when she requested a document from a prior city council meeting and did not receive it in the FOIA regulated time frame. Ultimately, a judge found that there was a FOIA violation, but Mayor Oakes did not do so willfully.

Even so, the judge ruled that Mead’s legal fees would be paid by Mayor Oakes. Oakes says because she was acting in her city position, Councilwoman Mead’s fees and her own would have to be paid by the city.

“Councilwoman Mead, according to the order, was considered a private citizen, since I was Mayor Andrea Oakes, I am the public,” Mayor Oakes added.

“It was over $7,000 in total. I didn’t think it was right for someone who committed a violation to have the city have to pay,” Dull said.

The fees to be paid are $3,374.25 for Mead’s legal fees and $4,050 for Mayor Oakes’.

The council voted 4-2 to pay the fees, councilmember Terry Holmes and Carolyn Dull voting no with Brenda Mead abstaining her vote.

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