Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gloucester, VA FOIA Fraud?

Watch the above video all the way through if you can, it's about 4 hours long, but to make a long story short, we were at this meeting and we watched everything going on during the entire meeting.  Here is what we sent to Mr Chriscoe, Board of Supervisor member at large.

"Mr Chriscoe:  We are going to FIOA your text messages made and received during the BoS meeting.  We not only saw what you were doing, we also heard your phone going off numerous times.  Thought there was a policy passed last year that prohibited this.  Since it was done during a BoS meeting, it becomes BoS business.  May we suggest you refrain from this in the future?"

A response from Mr Chriscoe;

My phone did not go off during the meeting.  I did receive a text during the meeting, not pertaining to county business.  I also used my phone as a calculator during a portion of the meeting.  I do not send texts during meetings of any kind they are sent automatically by the meeting setting on my phone.

Thank you for the interest in what I do.  Sorry to disappoint.


Ashley Chriscoe

Board of Supervisors

Our Response;

" All we can do is go by what we see and hear.  Your phone seemed to have beeped numerous times during the meeting.  Also, your claim that you were making calculations is of concern as you did not bring up any numbers during the meeting that would release you of such a claim.  May we point out that appearance should always be a concern that must be taken into consideration at all times during a Board meeting.  Also, conversations with numerous people after the meeting, the consensus was unanimous, that the appearance was you were texting during the meeting.  

  We are not trying to be offensive to you.  We are showing you what we are seeing and are simply asking for transparency.  Please go back and review the meeting video and take an honest look at yourself and ask what it is that everyone else is seeing."

Again Mr Chriscoe Responds;

I understand your point.  My harshest critic watches all of the meetings.  And at no time did my mom say anything about my phone.  She says I am an on it all the time and she made no mention of it.  I do keep my phone silenced and if I do get a text I get a green light that blinks.  My mother is a widow and I have two kids at home.  If something happens to one of them someone can always get a hold of me.  At our next meeting if you are there I will show you the feature I use so that the phone does not vibrate or make a sound.  I apologize if it looked like I was using my phone. 

I did have to use my iPad during the meting because the laptop on the counter quit working prior to the meeting.  

Thanks for watching.  Keep pointing these things out.  They are helpful.


Ashley Chriscoe

Board of Supervisors"

There is an old saying that we have adopted here.  Trust but verify.  So as we stated, we did a FOIA request for any and all text messages.  It went like this.

"Hello Christie;

  Attached is a PDF formal FOIA request for information regarding any and all text messages sent and or received by Ashley Chriscoe during the July 1st, 2014 Board of Supervisor's meeting between the hours of 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM.  As always, thank you for everything that you do."

The response back from Christie Lewis is as follows.

I am in receipt of your attached FOIA request as emailed and received on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 for “ digital copies of any and all text messages of Ashley Chriscoe during the July 1st, 2014 Board of Supervisor's meeting between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.” 

Mr. Chriscoe has indicated that he reviewed all text messages and only one text message was received and one was sent through automatic response during the timeframe specified.  These texts were not related to public business and do not constitute public records as defined under “Public Records” in the Code of Virginia § 2.2-3701.

FOIA provisions allow a locality to charge a reasonable fee to access and search for requested records.  Total time being charged for this request is 45 minutes at a rate of $15 per hour for a total charge of $11.25.  Please remit payment by check made payable to the “County of Gloucester” for the total amount and mail to Gloucester Community Education, P.O. Box 1306, Gloucester, VA 23061 or you may bring payment in person to our office.  We ask that you call ahead to 693-5730 to ensure staff is available to receive payment.  We are unable to make change, so we ask to please bring the exact amount if paying in person.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you.


Christi Lewis
Community Education Director

We asked for a justification of the above expense as Mr Chriscoe had already went through his text messages prior to the request.  How can he have possibly spent one hour once again reviewing his messages and why would it take anyone so long?  Also, let's look at the facts.  Christie Lewis only asked Mr Chriscoe for any digital copies of any text messages that he may have sent or received during the time frame in question.  She did not search any phone records to verify anything.  She simply asked him for any records.  So we have no idea whether or not he is even telling the truth.  

  Second.  Christie Lewis asks Mr Chriscoe how much time he spent searching his phone records and just goes along with that.  No verification on time spent here either and all this after Mr Chriscoe already told me the same story prior to the FOIA request.  Does anyone wonder why we question the integrity of local government officials?  Here is more of the conversation.

Another email to us from Christie Lewis;

"Mr. Chriscoe indicated he spent approximately one hour reviewing and responding to your request.  The county guideline is to provide a courtesy 15 minutes of response time so we billed for 45 minutes at the clerical rate of $15 per hour."

Our response to this is as follows:

"Please ask Mr Chriscoe to justify his time spent going through his cell phone for one hour after having already provided information on such prior to said request."

Again, we were at the meeting and kept hearing cell phone tones that would indicate a message came in on someone's phone during the meeting and it was coming from the front of the meeting room.  Mr Chriscoe had his head down and looking at something in front of him throughout a great deal of the 4 hour meeting.  It looked as though he was in fact texting.  We tried to work with county officials to clear all of this up, but there has been no response to us from the last email we sent asking Mr Chriscoe to justify his time spent looking through his cell phone messages or was that possibly deleting his cell phone messages?  We are presently looking into potential fraud on this.  This is not what we expect nor is it what anyone should expect of any county officials at any time.  It's disgraceful.  

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