Transparency News 10/11/13


Friday, October 11, 2013
State and Local Stories


In a special meeting in Richmond on Thursday, the state Board of Elections decided to fight the Democratic Party’s bid for a preliminary injunction to stop the board and Virginia’s 132 local registrars from purging names from voter registration lists. “I need to remind everyone that the board is not sued as an entity; we are sued individually. Needless to say, we take this very seriously,” Chairman Charles E. Judd said before the board moved into a closed session to discuss the suit with its legal counsel.

Workers chiseled out City Hall’s cornerstone early Thursday to uncover a time capsule that was encased in the concrete during the Vietnam War. Leo Ortiz picked up the weathered metal box and found it heavier than he’d expected. Then he tipped it to the side. Water streamed out. “Uh, oh,” he thought. The crew and Ortiz gingerly pulled off the top of the box. The contents, mostly paper, had turned to mush and smelled like rotten eggs. Whoever had put together the capsule had wrapped the items in plastic, then covered them in duct tape and tin foil, Ortiz said.

Two “Veterans’ Trees,” which will be decorated with Pulaski County armed forces members and veterans will again be featured as part of the county’s holiday display. The county is inviting families to submit framed, miniature copies of photographs of any veterans or currently serving members of the armed forces who have lived in Pulaski County at some point. The photos will become property of Pulaski County and will be used annually in the display. The Veterans’ Trees will be displayed on the first floor of the Old Stone Courthouse throughout the months of November and December.
Southwest Times

For journalists, the final weeks of a heated political race can be a pressure cooker, especially in Virginia, where an extremely competitive press corps fights tooth and nail for every scoop. In an environment like that, even a trusted newsman and his editors can neglect doing their due diligence. That is the best explanation anyone can offer for why Bob Lewis, the veteran Associated Press reporter, published an erroneous report Wednesday night that caused a major embarrassment for the wire service.

The appointment of Wilford Kale, a former interim supervisor, to the Williamsburg Regional Library’s board of trustees was blocked Tuesday after a supervisor aired concerns about an “incident” at the courthouse and Kale’s role in campaigning. Supervisor Jim Kennedy did not elaborate at the time, but said he wanted to question Kale about an alleged incident “to make sure that we’re not going to have a problem” if the supervisors approved Supervisor Andy Bradshaw’s nomination of Kale as a library trustee. Kale is a former appointed supervisor and Planning Commission member.For his part, Bradshaw said in a later interview, “To suggest that (my nomination) was politically motivated is offensive to me.” He said he made “the egregious mistake” of allowing the appointment discussion to happen in open session, but he would not compound it by discussing the merits of the four applicants in the press. The supervisors, in the end, deferred the appointment, after Supervisor Chairman John McGlennon said that they could not act on the nominations after unsubstantiated allegations had been publicly aired.
Virginia Gazette

National Stories

When a Fayette County, Ga., high school student posted a photo of herself clad in a bikini on Facebook, she had no legitimate expectation that the photo would remain private, a federal judge in Newnan has held. That photo—which student Chelsea Chaney made available to her Facebook friends and their Facebook friends—was discovered by a county school administrator looking for illustrations to use in a public forum on the risks of sharing personal information via social media. He subsequently used Chaney's photo and identified her by name in a 2011 community presentation entitled "Once It's There, It's There to Stay," that included parents, faculty and many of Chaney's fellow students.
Daily Report

A UCLA law professor's quest to obtain racial and academic data on applicants to the California State Bar has been bedeviling the courts for five years. But on Wednesday the state's highest court made the case sound easy, with all seven justices clearly ready to find a common law public interest that would justify releasing the data the State Bar is trying to withhold. "Why do you keep denying that the public interest doesn't have a role here?" Justice Goodwin Liu asked State Bar counsel James Wagstaffe, who endured his second stormy reception from the court in the last month.
The Recorder

Saying he has been "stonewalled'' by the governor’s administration, a Connecticut senator filed a complaint Wednesday with the Freedom of Information Commission to obtain the names of prisoners who have been released for early discharge. Sen. Joseph Markley filed the complaint with FOI Executive Director Colleen M. Murphy for the names of prisoners released since the program began in September 2011. In addition to the names, Markley wants the prisoners' identification numbers, the crimes they committed, the days of credit they received, and the dates they were released.
Hartford Courant


Virginia GazetteDisagreements over what was said in a recent closed session has put the James City Board of Supervisors at odds with each other. Again. Last month Stonehouse supervisor Jim Kennedy approached his fellow board members, proposing that closed meetings be recorded. The sessions would be immune to the Freedom of Information Act as long as they were held in accordance with Virginia law covering closed meetings. That is, if discussion is limited to personnel and legal matters and property acquisitions. Earlier this year it was Kennedy who blew the whistle on himself, saying he erred in voting to affirm a closed session because discussion drifted from a performance review of administrator Bob Middaugh into potential policies governing the public comment section of board meetings. Board members John McGlennon and Andy Bradshaw disagreed, according to Kennedy, saying the conversation didn't constitute a policy discussion. Taping closed sessions is hardly unheard of.

Times-Dispatch: The strongest argument Shaun McCutcheon makes for getting rid of the aggregate limit on campaign donations (currently $46,800) is this: Why should he be able to give the maximum amount (currently $2,600) to 18 individual candidates, which would keep him under that cap, but not to 19 – or 20, or 25? If the first 18 contributions do not corrupt the political process, then how could the others? The limit is indeed arbitrary. But then, so is any numerical limit: speed limits, the voting age, the $2,600 individual-contribution cap, 10 items in the speedy-checkout lane. Pose a similar question about any of those limits, and they sound equally capricious: If you can take 10 items into the express lane, then why not 11? What’s the big diff? However, “arbitrary” is not a synonym for “unconstitutional.”