COVID-19 has presented many challenges for local governments holding virtual public meetings, especially when there is a closed session (closed to the public as allowed by the Virginia Code) aspect involved. We’ve been working diligently to ensure there is adequate public access to all open virtual meetings, but we now realize this hasn’t occurred during the open portions of last several virtual Special Meetings of the Winchester Common Council where Council entered into and came out of closed session.
There has been public access to all of the regular and work session meetings of the Winchester Common Council that have been held virtually since the declaration of the state of emergency, but not to the three special meetings held on June 9, July 14, and July 28, 2020 (for the purpose of entering into closed session only). The official minutes detailing the open portions of these special meetings were made available to the public after the meeting and are still available to the public on the City’s agenda portal, but there was no public access to this information during these meetings.
Transparency and following Virginia Freedom of Information Act laws are very important to us and we apologize for this accidental oversight. Moving forward, City staff will ensure that there is proper public access to all public meetings of the City of Winchester Common Council and Council-appointed boards, commissions, and authorities.