King George County Withholding Records Related to Complaints Against Board Chair

by Adele Uphaus

King George County is withholding in their entirety 34 pages of records responsive to a request under the Freedom of Information Act for emails referencing complaints against Board of Supervisors Chair T.C. Collins.

The Advance on February 29 requested “emails sent by King George County employees to county Human Resources staff and/or members of the Board of Supervisors that reference complaints about Chair T.C. Collins” sent or received between January 1, 2024, and the date of the request.

We also asked the county to inform us of how many records were found to be responsive to this request but subject to withholding under Virginia’s FOIA laws.

On Monday, we received the following response from King George County’s FOIA officer, Jaclyn Fish: “This office has 34 pages of records, responsive to your request. Please be advised, however, that these records are exempt from disclosure under [Virginia Code section 2.2-3705.1],” which allows public bodies to withhold “personnel information concerning identifiable individuals.”

The Advance also asked whether there is an external investigation either on-going or planned into personnel matters.

In an email sent on Monday, the county’s communications and community engagement coordinator Amy Southall wrote that, “The county cannot discuss, nor share, information regarding personnel matters.”

In response to a follow-up question about whether there is any external investigation into any county matters, Southall wrote, “The county also cannot discuss, nor share, legal advice on county matters.”

The County did provide one record responsive to a FOIA request from the Advance for building code or permit related complaints concerning Collins filed this year or last year.

According to the record, on February 5, building official Rick Herron visited a site on West Lane owned by Collins after receiving an anonymous complaint that Collins was constructing an addition on a garage without a permit.

Herron found Collins on the site, according to a letter Herron wrote on February 8 to interim County Attorney Richard Stuart.

“We had a short conversation, [and Collins] mentioned he had a feeling he would see me there,” Herron wrote.

Herron compared the three-car garage he found on the site to the single-car garage described in the county’s land use records following an inspection in August of 2021.

“Upon further investigation, Community Development has no record of any permits for the above parcel for any garage updates. Per section 108 of the [county’s building code] a permit is required.”

According to the complaint record, Stuart spoke with Collins after receiving Herron’s letter and Collins then applied for a permit.

Herron returned to the site later in February and found that a permit had been issued.

Managing Editor and Correspondent