Saying "Show Me the Money," ACLU of West Virginia Calls For an End to Lawmakers' Closed-Door Budget Meetings

June 21, 2000 12:00 am

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CHARLESTON, WV — The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, together with advocacy groups and a local delegate, today filed a lawsuit in the State Supreme Court of Appeals challenging the State Legislature’s secretive “Budget Digest” process.

The groups say that the leadership of the legislature is manipulating the budget procedure by meeting secretly to decide how to funnel the money. The Budget Digest is a documented record of appropriated state funds to various counties, organizations and projects.

“West Virginians should be insulted that over $38 million gets doled out in a secret process,” said ACLU of West Virginia Executive Director Hilary L. Chiz.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, the West Virginia Citizens Action Group, Common Cause of West Virginia, the state Education Association and Delegate Arley R. Johnson says that the Budget Digest is generated by an alarmingly unconstitutional decision-making process.

“We challenge a process wherein decisions involving the expenditure of millions of dollars of public funds are made by a handful of people at some secret time and place, without complying with constitutional, statutory and case law,” said Former Chief Justice Margaret Workman, who represents the coalition of petitioners.

According to Chiz, the ACLU has litigated several cases in West Virginia concerning violations of the Government Open Meetings Act. The Budget Digest presents another challenge to the ACLU’s efforts to open closed doors.

“This lawsuit will bring accountability back to government,” said Chiz.

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