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Slavery Museum won't share studies page 2
Slavery Museum, Fredericksburg officials still working out plan to meet, discuss spending.

Date published: 12/15/2005

By PAMELA GOULD

continued

She explained that the original intention sprang from one goal: "to secure a guarantee from the Museum that it would locate in Fredericksburg."

Ultimately, however, the city and Wilder entered into a legal arrangement that created a special tax district and placed several requirements on the use of the funds.

"In the end, it was not a simple donation or even a loan to be paid back by the Museum," Dooley stated in the memo. "Instead, the City hired the Museum to undertake certain governmental tasks on behalf of the district."

The $1 million is being repaid through a tax on businesses within the special tax district. Rodenberg said Tuesday that it could be recovered, with interest, by the end of fiscal 2007.

Dooley wrote her memo in response to questions from council members about the requirements of the agreement.

The current debate is whether studies conducted with the $1 million are public documents.

Some members of council are asking that the studies--including marketing, demographic, traffic and economic impact studies--be turned over to the city as public records.

Councilman Matt Kelly said Tuesday night that the studies would help the city plan for the traffic and other impacts the museum would bring.

But Councilwoman Debby Girvan said the museum has fully met the terms of the agreement, and that if it decides not to turn over the studies, the City Council should drop the issue.

The Free Lance-Star submitted a request to the city for the studies under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, claiming that they are public records.

In her memo, Dooley does not take a position on whether the studies are public records.

She says the agreement is "silent" as to whether the city is entitled to the reports.

Dooley's memo states that the contract does not "require" delivery of the reports to the city, but she said she would need to fully research copyright laws to make a final judgment on the matter.

The memo goes on, however, to state that under the state Freedom of Information Act, the public is entitled to records "prepared, owned by, or in the possession of a public body."

She writes that the museum could be considered "the City's agent" since it provided governmental services. From that reasoning, the studies would belong to the city.

She adds that with that perspective, "it is easy to conclude that the studies were made in the transaction of public business."

In concluding her discussion on the studies, Dooley notes that the change in how the money passed from the city to the museum is key in assessing the situation.

If it was a loan to a private entity, the studies would have been the property of the museum, she writes. When it instead became a contract for services, the arrangement changed into that of a private contractor providing service to the government, Dooley says.

To reach PAMELA GOULD: 540/735-1972
Email: pgould@freelancestar.com


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