Transparency News 10/11/19



October 10, 2019


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state & local news stories


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Hopewell City Attorney Sandra R. Robinson has told Hopewell’s constitutional officers that the city will no longer assist them with Freedom of Information Act requests, claiming that the city staff workload has increased too much and that most of them already had appointed themselves as their own FOIA officers, anyway. The move has one of those constitutional officers, as well as a member of City Council, puzzled over when or how that decision was reached. In a letter dated July 12 — a couple of weeks after Robinson took the city attorney’s job — Robinson cited the increasing number of FOIA requests that had been coming in to the city clerk’s office pertaining to records handled by city administration and staff. Previously, City Clerk Ronnieye Arrington, who doubles as Hopewell’s FOIA officer, had been funneling requests for records from the offices of commissioner of the revenue, treasurer, Circuit Court clerk, cpmmonwealth’s attorney and sheriff.
The Progress-Index

All week, attorneys and the judge in a Danville gang-related trial have expressed optimism about finishing jury selection this week and getting to opening statements and evidence Monday. Now, after Thursday’s entire round of jury selection was negated because of unspoken circumstances, jury selection likely will stretch until next week. The jury selection process in U.S. District Court in Roanoke went as planned for most of Thursday, but came to a sudden halt just after 4 p.m. That’s when Chief Judge Michael Urbanski called for a recess. He invited all of the attorneys in the case — more than a dozen — into his chambers to talk privately at about 4:30 p.m. They met on and off for the next half hour, and at just after 5 p.m., Urbanski announced that he was dismissing all of the jurors who had come in that day. Urbanski did not offer an explanation in open court, and 10 attorneys approached afterward by the Danville Register & Bee would not comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately return phone calls Thursday evening.
Register & Bee

Shenandoah County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Black will recuse himself from hearing a petition to remove Strasburg Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. from office. Black made the decision after looking over just the first page of signatures on the petition. “On the first page I see former clients, two petitioners, just looking at one page, who are former clients,” Black said during a hearing in Circuit Court on Thursday. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Drumheller Strecky replied some of those signatures may be called into question. Orndorff’s attorney Phillip Griffin II agreed it may be an issue. Black said he would file the motion for recusal. That would result in the 26th Judicial District Chief Judge Bruce Albertson appointing another judge to the case.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

A South Carolina state senator is suing the S.C. Department of Commerce for refusing to publicly disclose records on a pair of economic development deals that have come under scrutiny. In a late Tuesday filing, freshman state Sen. Dick Harpootlian accused the agency of violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act by withholding some documents and heavily redacting others that he requested regarding incentives for Singapore-based Giti Tire and Moncks Corner-based Viva Recycling. A day after the filing — and hours after The State published a story on the lawsuit online — the Commerce Department decided Wednesday to release the requested records on Viva Recycling. Harpootlian said his lawsuit will move forward anyway. “We’re going to digest those,” he said. “But they’re a day late and a dollar short.”
The State

Should charter schools be subject to the same transparency and open-record laws as campuses in the traditional public school system? Or would the potential bureaucratic and legal challenges of fulfilling these requests bog down charter schools, which are sometimes small organizations that educate a few hundred students? The debate over charter schools and transparency has taken center stage in D.C. education circles in recent months. One outcome of that: The D.C. Council has been weighing competing proposals to give the public greater access to the inner workings of the city’s expansive charter sector. 
The Washington Post

Oregon’s first Public Records Advocate will leave her post next Monday. Wednesday morning, Ginger McCall issued her final reports and recommendations she says will make the government more transparent. Wednesday, McCall talked about the importance of access to public records, not only for members of the press, but for members of the public trying to get a police report or other documents. In the report, she outlines four things she says will help Oregon public records. She would like to see lower fees for public records, similar to that of the Federal Government’s Freedom of Information Act.  She wants to see a change in how denied requests are handled, saying the only option now is to go to court. The third idea is a tool to track public records requests and give local government the tools to do just that.  The final suggestion is to make the Office of Public Records Advocate an independent office so the pressures she felt won’t hamper the work of her successor.
Fox 12 Oregon

For many states, governmentwide cybersecurity protocols are relatively new developments — a response to the rise in frequency of attacks on public entities. Still, as safeguards they are increasingly necessary, making compliance vital.  A first-ever cybersecurity audit of Mississippi showed that a considerable percentage of the state's agencies regularly failed to comply with its cybersecurity protocols. Those protocols, codified in its Mississippi Enterprise Security program, were developed years ago and supported by a law passed in 2017, which established a basis for cooperation between agencies on issues of cybersecurity and defense. 


quote_2.jpg"A day after the filing — and hours after The State published a story on the lawsuit online — the Commerce Department decided Wednesday to release the requested records."