Local man sues Weston over FOIA request

Randy Bohan appears in Lewis County Circuit Court, along with Weston Mayor Julia Spelsberg, Weston City Manager Kristin Droppleman, and attorney Tim Gentilozzi. Bohan represented himself. [Staff photo by Rebecca Young]

    Weston resident Randy Bohan filed a complaint for injunctive relief against Weston City Manager Kristin Droppleman, citing the city failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request within the timeframe legally allowed.
    According to the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act, five days is allotted for a response regarding information requested. The parties involved in the case met on Oct. 31 in Lewis County Circuit Court.
    As is written in the complaint, Bohan requested an order instructing the defendant to provide access to the requested documents, expedite the legal proceeding to the extent possible, award the plaintiff all costs, fees and other expenses associated with this proceeding, and grant such further relief as the court deeds just and proper.
    Bohan requested documents from Droppleman under FOIA regarding a paving project involving Mid Avenue, Brown Avenue, and South River Avenue.
Bohan alleged the city did not comply within the time allowed, and he filed the relief on Sept. 7.
    “This is an example of dysfunctional and wasteful government,” Bohan stated.
Documents were sent to Bohan by certified mail, but Bohan’s FOIA request specifically stated bid advertisements. The paving project was not advertised as the city bid the job out under state contract, which is allowed by law. Therefore, the documents Bohan wanted did not exist.
    Bohan admitted the city did comply with his request and was now seeking reimbursement for the $225 filing fee for injunctive relief.
    Attorney Tim Gentilozzi represented Droppleman and the city, and told Judge Jacob Reger that the city sought legal opinion in the matter, the response to Bohan was completed, and someone at Bohan’s residence signed for the certified documents.
Bohan then told the court that the city acted accordingly, but he did not know that in September.
    Reger said that both the plaintiff and defendant agreed there was no bid advertisement as it was done under state contract. He then denied Bohan’s request for reimbursement.
    Reger based his decision on two factors: the city did not have a bid advertisement as requested in the FOIA, and the FOIA was responded to in a timely manner. Reger said that given what was outlined in the FOIA request, there was nothing for the city to produce.
    “I take FOIA requests seriously, and I feel the city followed the request,” Reger added. “I agree that government is supposed to be open and transparent. That’s why they have this Freedom of Information Act statute. But I think what’s happened here is that it’s outside the scope of what you’re asking for.”
Reger told Bohan he could appeal, and that appeal would have to be filed within 30 days.
    Bohan took to a public group on social media after the hearing. The following is his unedited statement:

What Weston Needs is to know today was my day in court
I filed an injunctive relief petition against the City in regards to a FOIA request in regards to the paving job in August.
Timeline:
1) August 22 I asked for “the bid advertisement” concerning this project
Which they had 5 business days to produce this information
2) September 7, I filed this petition to Lewis County Circuit Court
3) September 10 I received the information and they did not advertise for bids but utilized the WV State RFP program to bid this job, completely legal.
Today I merely asked for $225 filing fee reimbursement. I lost, based on that there was no bid advertisement.
IF MY FOIA WOULD HAVE BEEN LESS SPECIFIC, I would have been good. If I had asked for the bid process instead, I probably would be $225 richer, that being said here is the real issue at hand.
The City Attorney began his presentation by berating and belittling me and was asked to refrain from the personal feelings and background info of our contentious relationship, going as far as saying I labeled myself as a “Thorn in the side of City Government”
He then blatantly lied about the dates in question for which I had all supporting documentation to dispute.
The City spent countless hours and dollars going through this process when an answer on August 22 would have put this behind us.
The Mayor and City Manager where also in attendance.
And are you wondering why I make this public??????
Because the Weston Democrat sent 2 ( yes 2 ) reporters to cover the huge event and then interviewed the City Attorney after the hearing. Next Wednesday’s edition will be plum full of news, and might even make the FB Page, like when my school bus was 10 minutes late a few weeks back”

    In what Bohan alleged as an interview after the hearing, reporters for The Weston Democrat asked Gentilozzi: “How do you spell your last name?” Gentilozzi replied,” G-E-N-T-I-L-O-Z-Z-I.” Reporters then asked Gentilozzi what his first name is, with Gentilozzi answering that it is Tim. Lastly, reporters asked Gentilozzi where his law firm is located. “Clarksburg,” Gentilozzi said. This concluded the interview. The Weston Democrat did not need to ask these details of Bohan, as they were already known to the staff.
    The unrelated comment made by Bohan regarding the school bus was not an original post made by The Weston Democrat. It originated on the Facebook page “Lewis County Schools,” and was shared by The Weston Democrat to help the local school board reach more parents and students potentially affected by the late bus.
The original post did not identify the driver of the bus, nor did The Weston Democrat subsequently identify the driver. The Weston Democrat was not aware Bohan was the driver of that particular bus, as the Lewis County Board of Education does not release details about buses and their routes to the media for the safety of the children.


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