CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Former West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is accusing sitting Secretary Mac Warner of relaxing requirements for Freedom of Information Act requests because of the COVID pandemic.
In a release today, Tennant said Warner suspended the requirements of state agencies to respond to any FOIA requests, saying it withholds information from the public they have a right to know.
However, in a statement to 12 News Sunday, Warner’s office said they are incapable of changing FOIA reporting requirements, and that a rule change in March made due to the pandemic only relaxed a deadline for agencies to report to a state database when a FOIA request had been completed.
The database only lists basic information about those requests, and not information potentially gained through them.
Staff in the Secretary’s office said the rule will be reinstated once workers are able to return to offices as they did before the pandemic.
“Natalie Tennant is lying to the public. The Freedom of Information Act is and remains in effect during the state of emergency. The only responsibility the Secretary of State has regarding the Freedom of Information Act is to maintain a list of requests filed with our office by state agencies. That’s it. Nothing that I have done weakens or reduces state government’s responsibility to comply with the provisions of the Act. Natalie Tennant is so desperate to create public attention to her floundering campaign that she’s willing to say just about anything.” said Mac Warner, WV Secretary of State.
Documentation shows that Warner sites the governor’s state of emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic for his reason to delay the logging of FOIA information from state agencies to the public database.