CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia watchdog organization believes there is wrongdoing in two local cities.
John Taylor, president the Virginia Institute of Public Policy, says officials are sharing information to gain the upper hand in court. And he believes that government abuse is happening in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake because of it.
“This is just clearly government overreach and government abuse,“ Taylor said. “We think it will become apparent that the government is just running amok.”
His organization is geared towards making sure the government is doing right by the people. Wednesday, Taylor will be in Chesapeake Circuit Court, asking a judge to release more than a dozen documents that he believes will show wrongdoing in the city.
Taylor said last year he began investigating the way Chesapeake and Virginia Beach officials compare notes when it comes to eminent domain cases.
When a city has to take land for construction, it is required to give the property owner fair market value. Before it goes to court, both sides hire appraisers to figure out what the land is worth. Taylor believes the cities are going after the appraisers who typically work for property owners.
“They’re sharing notes, but they are sharing notes on ‘how do we go after this guy?’” Taylor said. “‘How do we go after him to ruin his credibility, ruin his being able to come to court and represent private property owners?”
Through the Freedom of Information Act, he asked both Virginia Beach and Chesapeake for copies of e-mails and documents he says will show the two sides working together. He said both cities wanted him to pay an “extreme cost“ for the documents. So, he’s asking a judge to have them handed over.
“They are just trying to cover this whole thing up with this veil of secrecy, and we just aren’t going to tolerate that,“ Taylor said.
Jan Proctor, Chesapeake City Attorney, told 10 On Your Side the city had no comment, and Virginia Beach officials say under law, the cities have the right to share notes. Taylor doesn’t dispute that, but he does when it comes to the type of information.
“This is a situation where we want the records, but they have them,” Taylor said. “We own the records, they don’t, and we want to see those records.“