Transparency News 10/16/13


Wednesday, October 16, 2013
State and Local Stories


An assistant state attorney general improperly advised two energy companies fighting class-action lawsuits by southwest Virginia landowners who claim the companies cheated them out of tens of millions of dollars in royalty payments for natural gas drilled on their properties, according to a report from the Inspector General's Office obtained by The Associated Press. In the report issued Tuesday to the Attorney General's Office, Inspector General Michael F. A. Morehart wrote that the assistant attorney general"inappropriately used commonwealth resources in support" of private litigation. Morehart wrote that the attorney general's office did not become aware of the email correspondence until Sept. 23 and the assistant attorney general was removed from the case.
Herald Courier

Kingsmill residents [in James City County] have been assured they will have public notice about Xanterra's development plans all along the way. That pledge doesn't apply to a series of meetings with county officials. An email leaked to the Gazette outlines a string of private meetings between Xanterra's consulting attorney, its contracted developer and a majority of James City supervisors and Planning Commission members. Xanterra seeks to amend Kingsmill's master plan to build more than 200 new homes.
Virginia Gazette

The opinion released Friday by the state attorney general’s office saying localities would have little regulatory power over uranium mining if the ban is lifted was disappointing to Delegate Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania. “For me, this points out how the battle will be fought on a state level and how important it is to keep the moratorium in place,” Merricks said. If a bill like the one introduced by State Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, proposing that the regulations be written only for Pittsylvania County, comes up again, Merricks said that locality’s residents should be heard. “Unless a clear majority wants it in the area, I don’t think the state should force it on a locality,” Merricks said. “Last I heard, we’re still a government of the people, by the people, for the people; to force one locality to do something is starting down a very, very slippery slope.”
Register & Bee

National Stories

The federal government shutdown has taken offline a database used to make sure people who enter the country illegally do not get jobs, The Times of Gainesville, Ga., reports. Employers use the E-Verify system, run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to check that newly hired employees are legally eligible to work in the United States.
Athens Banner-Herald

The West Virginia Supreme Court will decide if the State Police will be allowed to keep internal investigation information about State Troopers private. The High Court heard arguments Tuesday on a case originally filed by the Charleston Gazette. The newspaper continually sought information about complaints against Troopers and the investigations but was denied. A Kanawha County circuit judge ruled in favor of the State Police.
Metro News

The government watchdog Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, insisting the agency release previously demanded documents made under a Freedom of Information Act request that would clarify how conservative groups were screened for nonprofit status. Judicial Watch filed the suit on Oct. 9 but announced it Tuesday. President Tom Fitton said in a written statement that the suit was “designed to cut through the Obama administration cover-up of its IRS scandal.”
Washington Times

The Freedom of the Press Foundation released SecureDrop Tuesday. It’s an open-source tool that allows whistleblowers, or anyone who wants to communicate anonymously with journalists, a channel far more secure than email. The system is built on code written by Aaron Swartz and has been managed by Wired investigations editor Kevin Poulsen, John Cusack and Josh Stearns write in The Huffington Post. The New Yorker implemented a version of the tool in May. Cusack and Stearns cite the Committee to Protect Journalists’ recent report about press freedom in the United States, which said sources now fear contacting news organizations because of stepped-up leak investigations by the federal government.

The secret U.S. court that reviews electronic surveillance and searches approves nearly every request it receives, but demands substantial changes to nearly one in four applicationsbefore giving the go-ahead, the court's top judge said in a letter released on Tuesday. Amid ongoing controversy about U.S. spy agencies' collection of telephone and Internet data, Judge Reggie Walton of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court told members of Congress that 24.4 percent of requests submitted from July to September had been overhauled.

Workers tearing down Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, site of one of Americas worst school shootings, have been required by the town to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from discussing or photographing the site. The move is aimed at protecting families of the victims from further airing of details of the incident in which a gunman entered the school last December and opened fire, killing 20 young children and six faculty and staff before turning his gun on himself, Selectman William Rodgers said.


Daily Press: We conclude with a few words of advice for the two men who have earned our endorsements. To Mr. Icenhour: Try to get along with people. You are a smart man with a lot of experience on the Board of Supervisors. But when you bicker with Mr. Kennedy, and when the two of you speak harshly to each other in open meetings, it sets a tone that spreads into the audience and infects the way the county does business. It's not productive, and you are better than that. You are a voice of experience on this board. Try to use that voice to build bridges instead of walls.

Times-Dispatch: Democratic Sen. Donald McEachin and Republican Del. Jimmie Massie attended the Richmond Times-Dispatch Public Square on Oct. 8. Although they were not listed among the experts on the panel, they graciously accepted Publisher Tom Silvestri’s invitation to sit at the front and to offer the perspective of elected officials. They spoke of gifts generally and specifically and explained the types of gifts legislators receive. They gave personal examples. Massie described a trip he took to France to inspect a uranium mining site. Interests that want to mine uranium in Pittsylvania County paid for the journey. Massie said the trip gave participants an opportunity to observe firsthand an operation similar to one proposed for Virginia. Lawmakers gained knowledge they otherwise might not have received. They eventually could be passing judgment on uranium. A citizen in the audience said that if such trips are necessary, then the state ought to pay for them. We agree.