The response from Governor Kaine’s office to my Freedom of Information request makes it clear that at the highest level of state government in Virginia, there really is no desire to find the truth surrounding the horrible events of April 16, 2007. Here is that request followed by the response:
Ms. Amber Lee Amato
Director of Constituent Services
Office of Governor Timothy M. Kaine
SUBJECT: Freedom of Information Request
Dear Ms. Amato,
Thank you very much for answering my previous Freedom of Information requests.
The correspondence you sent concerning TriData’s arrangements with the State of Virginia to write the Review Panel Report has raised new questions. Specifically, the letters of August 17, 2009, and April 26, 2007 list ambiguous job descriptions with hourly pay. (I assume it is an hourly pay scale, because the letters do not indicate that.)
Would you provide me with the following?
1. Please provide me with the names of the people attached to each position in the letter. For example, Corporate Program Director, Jane or John Doe.
2. Please provide me with the total amount paid each person for his or her role in the production of the report. For example, Senior Production Director, Jane or John Doe, $xxx.
3. Please define the role for each category of TriData officer working on the report. The titles are ambiguous and really do not say what an individual did in her or his capacity. For example: Senior Communications & Media Specialist. What is that? Is that a public relations person or a specialist in the production of finished reports? It is not clear.
4. If the job description cited in the preceding question is a public relations person, would you provide me with the justification for hiring a public relations specialist? TriData paid a Senior Law Enforcement Specialist approximately half the hourly rate they paid a public relations specialist. It would appear that TriData’s priorities are misplaced. The report is about the worst school shooting in this nation’s history—common sense tells me the contributions of a law enforcement specialist are worth far more than a PR person. Why did the state go along with this?
5. Please provide me with the amount of profit TriData Corporation took in from this report after expenses.
Ms. Amato, again, I appreciate your time, patience, and effort in responding to my requests. Preventing school shootings is very important to my family. We lost the mother of our oldest grandchild at the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, on January 16, 2002.
It is my belief that unless serious and thorough analyses of these shootings are done, it is only a matter a time before another school shooting takes place. For your information, this letter is being posted on my blog, www.aquestionofaccountability.com, and may appear in one or more Virginia newspapers. Your response will be published on the blog when I receive it.
Thanking you in advance
David Cariens, Jr.
Mr. David S. Cariens
Thank you for your letter dated October 13, 2009 concerning your request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The general policy of FOIA expressed in w 2.2-3700 of the Code of Virginia is to ensure access to public records in the possession of public officials. FOIA requires that all public records be open to inspection and copying and we have previously provided you all documents in our possession concerning payments to TriData as well as personnel working for TriData. We have provided you with contact details for TriData so that you can seek further information which we do not possess.
Several of your questions do not request documents but information—such as the amount of profit TriData earned from its work with the Commonwealth. It is important to distinguish a request for information from a request for documents and the Attorney General has opined that FOIA applies to documents and not to requests for information. We have no documents in our possession that are responsive to your requests other than what has been previously provided to you.
Director of Constituent Services
Office of Governor Timothy Kaine
The most telling line in the response from the governor is the sentence: “It is important to distinguish a request for information from a request for documents and the Attorney General has opined that FOIA applies to documents and not requests for information.”
I’m not sure the Virginia Attorney General is a credible source for interpreting the law. The Virginia Attorney General’s office appears to turning a blind eye toward the fact that Virginia Tech’s Policy Group may have broken the law. For example, the SERAPH Research Team (a consulting and training firm that consists of law enforcement and educational experts) has called for criminal charges against Virginia Tech University. SERAPH claims the school’s Policy Group obstructed the police in their original investigation of the first two murders at Amber Johnston Hall.
SERAPH cites the Virginia legal code in making the charge. Specifically:
“Virginia criminal code 18.2-460 A, Obstructing justice: If any person without cause knowingly obstructs a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness or any law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties as such or fails or refuses without just cause to cease such obstruction when requested to do so by such judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, or law-enforcement officer, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
SERAPH is apparently referring to the actions of Virginia Tech’s Policy Group following the first two homicides and the slaughter of 32 people at Norris Hall almost two and one-half hours later. SERAPH is questioning the judgments of the Policy Group, indicating there may be reasonable cause for obstruction of justice. What has the Virginia Attorney General said about the possibility that Virginia Tech’s Policy Group obstructed justice? Nothing—neither he nor his office apparently has bothered to investigate the possibility of criminal action by the Policy Group on April 16, 2007.
I would think that state of Virginia would want to know, and being willing to share with the electorate, the following information:
1. The names and the backgrounds of the people at TriData who played key roles in the drafting of the report—those names should not be a state secret. Indeed, that information should critical to ensuring the best possible analysis of this nation’s worst school shooting is written. For example, if the governor’s office had a question or concern about the document, having the names could clear up any ambiguity in the written text.
2. I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask how much each person was paid to produce the report. That too should not be a state secret. I would argue that TriData was paid with tax payers’ money and that tax payers have a right to know how much each person was paid.
3. The failure of the governor’s office to answer question three is particularly troubling. Why would TriData need a public relations officer to play what appears to be a high-priced, key role in the production of the report? The only answer I can come up with is to spin the report. Because the state is paying TriData a princely sum to produce the Review Panel Report, you can bet the document will spin in favor of the Virginia Tech. I for one, hope there is a member of the Virginia legislature who picks up on this “spin doctor” approach by TriData and asks for an explanation.
4. Again, the failure to answer question four is disturbing. Why on earth would the state agree to pay a public relations officer far more than a security expert? This fact brings into question the state’s motives as well as the credibility of the final product. The failure to answer question four clearly raises the specter of an out right cover-up—at the expense of the truth.
5. Question five is a legitimate question that needs answering. It is morally repugnant for any person or company to make money off the sufferings of others. To take over $700,000.00 for the report analyzing the killing of 32 innocent victims and wounding of 17 others is despicable. The citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia have a right to know just how much profit TriData made.
The response from the governor’s office is especially troubling because many of the answers to my questions should have been in the contract signed by the State of Virginia and TriData. Therefore, the easiest way to answer my request would have been to supply me with a copy of the contract and all amendments. Once the revisions to the Review Panel Report are out, I plan to file a request for a copy of the original contract with TriData and all amendments to that contract—as well as a final tabulation of all money paid to TriData.