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Media organizations suing Gov. Youngkin for ‘tip line’ emails

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 10:54 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - More than a dozen media organizations, including NBC29′s parent company Gray Television, are suing Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin over documents.

The documents being sought are emails sent into the new governor’s tip line where he encouraged parents to share any concerns about potential violations of students’ “fundamental rights” and any other perceived “divisive practices” in Virginia schools.

The lawsuit filed by 13 media organizations - including the Associated Press, CNN, NBC29 and its sister stations in Richmond, Harrisonburg, and Roanoke - alleges that Youngkin is violating the Freedom of Information Act by withholding the release of the emails sent to the tip line.

“The legal process has now been initiated. So it’s now in the court of Youngkin’s office and their desk to say, ‘hey, we have an argument that supports our rationale,’” said AC Rieman, NBC29′s legal analyst.

The Youngkin administration’s rationale for not handing over the emails when they were requested is that they are “working papers.”

“The statute defines working papers are anything that was prepared by or for a public official,” Rieman said.

But in the lawsuit, the media organizations say the emails cannot be working papers. For one, they accuse the emails were shared with people outside Youngkin’s office, including the American Enterprise Institute.

“The argument that this is a working paper because it was prepared by or for a public official doesn’t quite seem to fit the definition that’s in the Virginia Code,” Rieman said.

The suit, filed in the Richmond Circuit Court, could establish a new precedent. The media organizations cite several previous FOIA cases but Rieman said there has never been one exactly like this.

“It deserves to have its day in court so that either the public can have access to these records, or we can kind of get to the bottom of this tip line,” Rieman said.

We reached out to Gov. Youngkin’s office for a comment about the lawsuit. We have not heard back.

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