Transparency News 3/20/17
Monday, March 20, 2017
State and Local Stories
State and Local Stories
The ACLU of Virginia on Friday again asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to halt all executions, this time in response to recent changes that will conceal more of the procedures. “Virginia already has a system that allows the state to contract in secret with secret compounding pharmacies to make secret drugs, and now the (Department of Corrections) has moved to remove the actual process of executions further and further from public view,” wrote Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the organization, in a letter to McAuliffe on Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. "Tommy" Norment is the highest paid adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary by a wide margin. An attorney who has been in the Virginia Senate since 1992, Norment also makes more than double what any adjunct professor at the University of Virginia School of Law is paid, pulling in $60,000 a year in a field that typically pays less than $10,000.
Virginia Beach City Council received a report six months ago from Johnson Consulting, a Chicago firm that evaluates arena and stadium projects, that robustly endorsed an 18,000-seat Oceanfront arena. The 68-page financial feasibility study, paid for by arena developers, declared that “Hampton Roads has been starved for a venue of this size and quality for some time.” Go for it, consultants said, in so many words. The problem, of course, is that consultants often tell you what you want to hear. Remember the consultants who breathlessly predicted Norfolk’s cruise ship terminal would be overflowing with business? That’s not to say Johnson Consulting, a well-respected company, is wrong. The arena could be a smashing success. But there’s no way for the public and media to judge the validity of the report. That’s because United States Management has closed the books on the financial wizardry that led to many of Johnson’s conclusions. Most of the figures Johnson used to determine whether the arena would be a success were marked out in black ink in the report that was made public online.
The sentiment was unanimous in the Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday: The Legislature and governor's office should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which provides access to records. Michigan is one of only two states in the nation that exempt the Legislature and governor from open-records laws and during Sunshine Week, which celebrates transparency in government, the 10-bill package passed 108-0.
Detroit Free Press
Thirty-two public agencies in the Dayton, Ohio, area were among 357 across the state issued citations last year for not fully complying with Ohio’s public records laws, according to the state auditor’s office. Some had up to four citations, including the Springfield Academy of Excellence, which was shut down by the state in 2015 for other issues. Other entities with more than one citation include the Butler County Agricultural Society and village of Harveysburg. Most of the issues statewide stem from officials not attending state-required public records training, lacking public records policies or failing to provide the policy on request, according to Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost.
Dayton Daily News
Princeton University has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the U.S. Department of Education from releasing information about the university’s undergraduate admissions process to an anti-affirmative action group. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the university in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday by former U.S. Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, who is now with Washington’s Jenner & Block. a “reverse [Freedom of Information Act]” lawsuit, was filed in response to an Oct. 27, 2015, FOIA suit filed against the DOE by a group called Students for Fair Admissions seeking documents relating to how Princeton evaluates and selects applicants.
New Jersey Law Journal
As journalists nationwide celebrate Sunshine Week with the hope of shedding even more light on government spending, a bill in the Statehouse could eclipse the party. The S.C. House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday will consider a bill related to the Freedom of Information Act that critics say would be a step backward. The bill has been amended to include a provision that would require nonprofit groups that receive government money, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to submit quarterly reports to the government body that gave them the funds. The nonprofits then would not be subject to the law's disclosure requirements.
Post and Courier
There is a constant dance among the media, the government, and the public to uncover, share and utilize information. This information doesn’t flow just one way. The public often learns about government workings through the media — and in the reverse, the government finds out about the attitudes and requirements of the public from the media. At the center of this relationship is the Freedom of Information Act. FOIA is more than a law — it is a policy statement. It reminds government employees that they work for the people and the work they carry out can and should be reviewed by the public. The act conveys to the public that the “right to know” is fundamental and should be respected by government. As for the press, they see FOIA as the ultimate safeguard of open government.
Betsy Edwards, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Though the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell in the Giftgate scandal that consumed the final year of his administration in 2013, the initial guilty verdict in a federal corruption trial still resonates throughout the halls of power in Richmond. Despite the fact loopholes in the current reporting and disclosure law that still make Virginia’s law one of the least restrictive in the nation, the most recent disclosures reveal more than a few surprises, both good and not-so good.
News & Advance