State Supreme Court reverses decision on FOIA request involving Virginia Beach dentist

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Supreme Court of Virginia pushed back on the city’s use of Freedom of Information Act exemptions, overturning a circuit court ruling which upheld the redactions.

The reversal came after Virginia Beach dentist Dr. Allan Bergano brought a lawsuit against the city for what he and his attorneys claim was unfair treatment in an eminent domain case involving the building where Bergano practiced dentistry.

Related story: Virginia Beach dentist sues city over property dispute, requests federal investigation

Bergano had filed a FOIA request asking for “all legal fees and expert invoices relating to all of the city’s expenses” in litigation against Bergano in federal court. The city returned heavily redacted documents, claiming attorney-client privilege and legal word-product exemptions from release.

However, according to the opinion from Virginia Supreme Court Justice Stephen McCullough, the city used those exemptions too broadly in their redactions, and ordered for the “disclosure of unredacted billing records consistent with this opinion.”

Bergano alleged in his eminent domain lawsuit that the city acted at times with malice and “callous disregard” for his constitutionally and federally protected rights regarding his longtime dental practice on North Witchduck Road.

Bargano’s lawsuit was filed In November 2015 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk by his attorney, Joe Waldo of the firm Waldo & Lyle.

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