CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) filed a legal action today to compel the state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to comply with the law after discovering officials are trying to hide legislative rules from public view.
“Democracies are not ruled by secret laws, period,” said Aubrey Sparks, ACLU-WV managing attorney. “The legislative rules promulgated by every state agency in West Virginia are considered law and are therefore open and available to the public under state code 29A-2-4.”
Sparks pointed out that state departments can maintain non-public policies under certain circumstances, such as those that directly relate to personnel safety, but that this does not apply to legislative rules that carry the force of law.
On Feb. 2, ACLU-WV staff members went to the Secretary of State’s Office to review DCR’s policy manual and were at first granted access. Upon initial review, it was clear that earlier versions of the rule provided to ACLU-WV by DCR were inaccurate.
The following workday, ACLU-WV returned to the Secretary of State’s Office to resume review of the policies. Shockingly, ACLU-WV learned that DHS had asked for permission to remove the documents from the Secretary of State’s Office, a request which was denied.
“What DCR and DHS are doing is lumping regular laws in with those that can be kept from the public eye in order to avoid accountability,” Sparks said.
In the end, access to some of the documents was denied, even though access had previously been granted.
The filing, known as a petition of mandamus, was filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court. The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Carrie Webster.