Transparency News 10/17/13


Thursday, October 17, 2013

  State and Local Stories


A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a request by attorneys for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to shield two e-mails written by a senior policy adviser to the governor from a grand jury subpoena in a criminal investigation. The three-judge panel’s ruling does not name McDonnell, but two people familiar with the case confirmed that the opinion relates to the federal investigation into McDonnell’s relationship with a wealthy political supporter who gave the governor’s family gifts and money.
Washington Post

A few weeks before last month's vote on the city's first mosque, Virginia Beach Councilman Bill DeSteph received a 25-page PowerPoint presentation. It came from the leader of the local chapter of ACT for America, a group concerned about radical Islamists in the United States, and alleged the proposed mosque had ties to Muslim extremists. DeSteph, the only council member to vote against the mosque on Sept. 24, later said he had information that the facility was a threat to national security, but he declined to give details. He said he passed the information to the federal government.That PowerPoint, other correspondence obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews show that DeSteph used information from the local ACT leader to help make his decision on the mosque, and that ACT hoped he would be a political voice in Richmond for its agenda. DeSteph, a former naval intelligence officer, is running as a Republican for the 82nd District seat in the House of Delegates.

Virginia's Board of Elections has removed nearly 39,000 voters from the rolls even as officials prepare to defend the state from a lawsuit brought by Democrats challenging whether a “purge” less than three weeks from Election Day is legal. Virginia for the first time this year is working as part of a multistate program intended to validate voters and provide information to elections boards about those who are registered in more than one state. Elections board officials have said they were required by law to conduct maintenance on the voter lists and were not canceling voters but directing local registrars to review registrants carefully.
Washington Times

The Virginia State Bar Association has suspended former Albemarle County Supervisor Christopher J. Dumler’s law license for non-payment of annual dues, a bar association representative said Wednesday. To regain his license, Dumler would have to pay a total of $850 in fees and penalties, including a late penalty, $250 in annual dues and a $450 reinstatement fee. Dumler is wanted in Orange County for failing to appear in court as an appointed attorney, records show.
Daily Progress

State police have concluded a review of a University of Virginia student’s arrest by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents who mistook a crate of water for a case of beer, the agency’s top official said Wednesday. But that review won’t be made public until ABC completes its own internal review of the more than six-month-old case, board Chairman J. Neal Insley said. It was unclear precisely when that might happen, or how much the agency might disclose about either its findings or those of state police.
Daily Progress

Manassas Park is using CodeRED, an emergency notification system that can distribute messages via telephone, text message or email to targeted areas or the entire city quickly. In the event of an evacuation notice, snow emergency or other public safety situation, the system will deliver messages to registered phone numbers.
Inside NOVA

A simple finding of wasted government resources is likely the only fallout to come from a state investigation into a senior assistant attorney general’s legal advice to energy companies embroiled in a multi-million-dollar federal lawsuit with Southwest Virginia landowners. “The Office of the State Inspector General only issues reports,” constitutional law expert Stewart Harris, of the Appalachian School of Law, said of the finality of the state investigation. The three-and-a-half page report, released Tuesday by State Inspector General Michael F. A. Morehart, is little more than an administrative office review with publicized findings, Harris said. It will not lead to criminal charges for Senior Assistant AG Sharon Pigeon, according to state law. Nor will the report eventually segue into a recommendation for disciplinary action on the part of the attorney general’s office.
Herald Courier

As the two candidates for attorney general Wednesday launched new campaign ads targeting each other, the Virginia Republican Party alleged a campaign finance violation they hope will cost Democrat Mark Herring. In a big way. The GOP complaint to state election officials claims the Democratic Attorneys General Association isn't properly registered in Virginia as a political committee and hasn't disclosed its donors, a potential law violation that if true could trigger a dollar-for-dollar fine against Herring.

Terry McAuliffe earned $9.5 million and paid $2.7 million in taxes in 2012, according to a summary of his returns released by his campaign for Virginia governor Wednesday evening. McAuliffe — whose return was due Oct. 15 because he filed for an extension in April — did not release his full return or identify the sources of his income. His campaign provided the summary on the condition that the document itself not be published. McAuliffe’s 2012 income included $417,000 in wages, $6.2 million in business income, and $2.2 million in capital gains.
Washington Post

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declined a request for rehearing by New York Times reporter James Risen on Tuesday. Of the 14 judges, 13 rejected the petition to rehear the case. A three-judge panel had ruled in July that Risen would have to testify to the identity of his confidential source in a story involving information leaks from the Central Intelligence Agency. Judge Roger L. Gregory, who dissented in the 2-1 July ruling, cast the single dissenting vote Tuesday in the decision denying rehearing.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

National Stories

Prosecutors for the first time are telling a defendant that evidence came from eavesdropping, setting up a legal test of the government’s sweeping warrantless surveillance program.
New York Times

The Florida Department of Corrections overturned a decision on Friday that forbid inmates from receiving a socialist newspaper that contained an article about hunger strikes in a California prison. The Santa Rosa Correctional Institution, in Milton, Fla., had informed the the Militant in September that it would not distribute its July 22 issue to the more than 30 prisoners in the state who subscribe to the paper. Prison officials argued that the article on hunger strikes "presents a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the correctional system," the Militant reported.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Racial tensions and gang problems were plaguing a Northern California high school when three students arrived for classes in 2010 wearing American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. Unpleasant verbal exchanges and altercations marked the previous year's Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, 20 miles south of San Jose. So when students told administrators that trouble was a possibility because of the American flag attire, the students were ordered to turn their shirts inside out or go home. They went home, and the incident sparked a national debate, prompting satellite news trucks to camp outside the school for several days afterward as well-known pundits across the political spectrum argued about the issue over the airwaves. Cinco de Mayo is observed by some as a celebration of Mexican heritage.
Fox News

After paying a record $14 million to an unidentified whistleblower, the Securities and Exchange Commission is keeping the identity of the wrongdoer, and the scheme, secret. And at least one critic says that’s bad policy. “In terms of overall publication of a scheme and a defendant, it’s unprecedented for an agency to announce a sanction without disclosing the scheme or defendant,” according to noted whistleblower attorney Reuben Guttman.
Corporate Counsel

A lobbying group for major U.S. food manufacturers has violated campaign finance laws in its attempt to block a measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods in Washington state, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the state's attorney general. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleges that the Grocery Manufacturers Association illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors.

The city of Westland, Mich., "subverted" Michigan's Freedom of Information Act and must comply with the law, according to a recent judge's ruling. "They [Westland officials] were over charging," said William Maze, the Livonia attorney who sued the city. "Clearly they were doing it to make a profit." Maze said the case involved a request for information from the police department. He said he thought Westland might have set its rates high to discourage the public from filing FOIA requests. "They were charging $75 per video (and) $35 for audio," he said of Westland's FOIA charges. "[For documents]they were charging $5 for the first and second page and $1 per page thereafter. Or you could pay a flat $45.61 per hour rate. There was no basis for what they were charging."
Michigan Capitol Confidential