Apr 15, 2024 - News

Virginia NAACP threatens to sue Youngkin over DEI transparency

Illustration of a statue of justice with torn paper over her eyes revealing a stack of papers beneath

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Virginia NAACP is threatening to sue Gov. Glenn Youngkin over an alleged failure to provide public records on how his office is handling DEI issues.

The big picture: The lawsuit the civil rights group intends to file says the administration violated state FOIA law by not turning over requested information within the legally defined timeframe.

  • If the NAACP sues and wins, the judge could order the Youngkin administration to share everything it asked for.

Zoom in: The NAACP's 31 requests were aimed at uncovering whether Youngkin has been following a 2020 law that created a governor-appointed DEI director position.

  • The role is tasked with developing and executing a plan "to address systemic inequities in state government practices" and turn feedback into "concrete equity policy."

It also sought background on:

  • Youngkin's decision to swap out the "equity" in DEI with "opportunity" via executive order upon taking office in January 2022.
  • His chief diversity officer Martin D. Brown's declaration last year that "DEI is dead."

State of play: Youngkin defended Brown when he faced calls to resign, saying DEI has "gone off the rails."

  • Last week, the governor struck a budget amendment that would restore the office title back to "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion."

The other side: The NAACP's requests amounted to 50,000-plus emails and around 10,000 documents, per an email from the state's FOIA officer.

  • Christian Martinez, Youngkin's press secretary, said in a statement that the office seeks a resolution and believes in government transparency.
  • But due to the number of documents, "a legitimate issue involving the best method for document search and production has arisen."
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