FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 27, 2022
CONTACT: Billy Wolfe firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) has filed a lawsuit in Cabell County Circuit Court against the county’s 911 system and county commission for violating state open records laws.
In October, county emergency officials refused a records request made by Kyle Vass, an investigative reporter who is currently working with ACLU-WV to cover issues surrounding incarceration in West Virginia, including deaths at state correctional facilities. Vass asked for copies of 911 phone calls to Western Regional Jail and was told he would have to get a subpoena to access the records. Similar records requests in four other counties were honored.
“Given the overcrowding and abnormally high rate of preventable death in our state’s jails, the public has the right to know what’s going on,” Vass said. “Public access to public records is vital to democracy. When governments try to take away that access, it makes you wonder what they’re hiding.”
“West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act is clear that the right of access to public records applies to all West Virginians,” said Loree Stark, ACLU-WV Legal Director. “The government cannot require a subpoena for records that fall squarely within our state FOIA laws, and when a public body imposes unlawful barriers in violation of the law, it undermines the Act’s goal of ensuring that people have a right be informed and to hold their government accountable.”
In its lawsuit, ACLU-WV asks the Court to declare the refusal unlawful and order Cabell County Commission and Cabell County 911 to disclose the requested documents, in addition to attorney’s fees. Stark and ACLU-WV Staff Attorney Nick Ward brought the suit on behalf of Vass.