PETA sues Norfolk over text messages

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk judge has decided to hear a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the City of Norfolk, regarding city officials’ text messages.

On Thursday, lawyers with the ACLU of Virginia presented arguments on behalf of PETA to Norfolk Circuit Court Judge John R. Doyle, III. The group is fighting for text messages sent by city officials about city business to be made public.

“The lawsuit arises from several FOIA requests for text messages that PETA made to the City,” said an ACLU press release. “In response to the requests, the City told PETA that it does not save text messages generated by City officials.”

Virginia law, including FOIA and the Virginia Public Records Act, require records of city business to be kept and made available to the public, upon request. PETA and the ACLU are arguing those laws apply to text messages of city officials conducting city business.

“As government officials increasingly rely on text messages to conduct public business, it is essential to make sure that they are not used to hide the government’s work from public view,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Public records in any form must be made available so that voters can hold officials accountable for their actions.”

The City asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, but after hearing the arguments, Doyle denied the request.

“It should not take a lawsuit for the City to retain text messages effectively-as that’s a critical part of government transparency-but PETA’s case should help move the City’s public record keeping into the 21st century,” said PETA’s General Counsel Jeff Kerr.

The ACLU of Virginia would not provide any specific information to about the text messages PETA requested from the city of Norfolk.

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