City responds to former officer’s FOIA request

Published 12:03 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

The City of Franklin has provided former Franklin police officer Ronnie McClenny with a formal response regarding the Freedom of Information Act request he filed during citizens’ time at the Feb. 13 city council meeting. On Tuesday, Feb. 21, City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV drafted and mailed a letter to McClenny informing him that his FOIA request did not request the city produce any records or documents.

According to Williams, McClenny’s initial request addressed 17 topics in the form of questions, none of which requested the opportunity to review an existing document or record, and that FOIA does not require the city to create a record or document to answer McClenny’s questions if one does not already exist.

“The purpose of Title 2.2, Chapter 37, the Freedom of Information Act, is to ensure that public records, not subject to an exemption, are available for inspection and copying upon request,” Williams writes. He added that Va. Code Section 2.2-3700 (B) defines “public records” as writings and recordings that are prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body that are prepared for or used in the transaction of public business and that the code specifies that “a request for public records shall identify the requested records with reasonable specificity.”

In his original FOIA request, McClenny had asked the following regarding the Franklin Police Department:

  • Does the city have in place an audit system to check the hours worked by the administration?
  • Does the Chief of Police work the required 40 hours per week mandated by city policy?
  • Does the communications manager work the required 32 hours per week as mandated by job description and city policy?
  • Does the communications manager or communications supervisor fill in and work in the capacity of a dispatcher when there is a shortage of manpower?
  • Why does the police department not only have a communications manager, but also a communications supervisor? Is this two people doing the same job?
  • Is it true that when the Virginia State Police did an audit on the completeness and competence of the Virginia Criminal Information Network inside the Franklin Police Department that it was so poorly done that the police department is in jeopardy of losing its license?
  • How many officers and dispatchers are we short inside the police department?
  • How many officers have been hired since the police received a $5,000 pay increase in 2016?
  • What are the employment statistics over the last five years in the turnover in the police department? Specifically, the number of people hired and number of employees that have left, to include dispatchers?
  • How many times has the police department purchased new service weapons since 2004? Is this expenditure for the safety of our officers and citizens or for someone’s personal gain?
  • How much did it cost to build the shelter behind the police department to uncover the armored vehicle that has sat behind the building for the past eight years uncovered? Was the cost in excess of $45,000?
  • Is the City of Franklin insured if this armored vehicle is involved in an accident and the driver is not qualified to operate said vehicle?
  • In 2008, the city adopted the state law that gives the city the ability to collect money from DUI arrests. How much money has been collected during the last eight and a half years?
  • How much money has been collected since last year when Chris Horne of WAVY 10 did a story about collecting money from DUI arrests?
  • How much water is being consumed behind the police department for off-duty employment in the business of washing and detailing vehicles? Is the off-duty personnel paying for the use of this water?
  • Is water being consumed for personal gain? Citizens are charged for a minimum of 5,000 gallons per month whether they use it or don’t use it.

McClenny said that he did not expect Williams to answer his questions but he felt that every one of them had merit and that he had presented his FOIA request in open council to attempt to inspire members of the city council to ask the same questions.

“People should be asking these questions because we’re wasting a lot of money here in Franklin,” McClenny said. “There’s a lot of deficiencies inside that police department; it has been that way for the past 12 years or so. Police officers past and present talk to me all the time so I know what’s going on there.”

He added that he intends to reappear during citizens’ time at future city council meetings and rephrase his request for answers.

McClenny retired from the Franklin Police Department in late 2009 and now lives in Suffolk.