Transparency News 10/18/19



October 18, 2019


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state & local news stories


"The agency failed to provide an accurate summary of the public comments and concerns."

The Virginia Department of Corrections is asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by media organizations aimed at allowing official and media witnesses to view entire execution procedures. Last month, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and several other news organizations sued the Virginia Department of Corrections alleging the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to certain government proceedings, including the entirety of executions. In a motion filed Wednesday, the Virginia attorney general’s office asks U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne to dismiss the complaint, arguing that there is no such right and because the policy in question was implemented in February 2017, the complaint is barred by a two-year statute of limitations.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman claimed Thursday that the family of a man killed in a 2018 shooting had seen a police video of the event, but the family said that’s misleading because the video did not show the shooting. Phillip Cameron Gibson II, 37, died on May 8, 2018, following a pursuit that ended in an officer-involved shooting in Glade Spring. Since then, family members of Gibson’s, Michelle Castle and Paige Fultz, have sought to see body-camera or dash-camera footage of the event. Newman previously declined to release Sheriff’s Office video after the family filed Freedom of Information Act requests. Castle, who is represented by Attorney John Fishwick, filed a FOIA lawsuit on Oct. 1 in Washington County Circuit Court. Castle told the Bristol Herald Courier on Thursday that she, as well as her sister and aunt, viewed a short VSP video clip in June 2018.State Police has not shown the family the Sheriff’s Office video because officials said it was Sheriff’s Office property, according to FOIA responses to the family and the Bristol Herald Courier, which also requested the records.
Bristol Herald Courier

Strasburg Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. turned himself in to authorities Thursday after he was accused of misusing town and state money. The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Culpeper office charged Orndorff on Thursday with four counts of food-stamp fraud and two counts of obtaining money by false pretense, all misdemeanors, Public Information Officer Sgt. Brent Coffey states in a media release.
The Northern Virginia Daily

Richmond residents and some council members are raising concerns about more than $50 million in public housing revenue bonds that were fast-tracked without enough public input. At the October 14th meeting, Richmond City Council approved an expedited resolution to allocate up to $16 million in public housing revenue bonds to a private developer. This is the third time since September that Council bypassed regular procedure to quickly advance bond measures for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.  Fifth District City Councilmember Parker Agelasto expressed concern over RRHA’s lack of public notice and engagement. Agelasto criticized RRHA’s method of advertising its public hearings for being inaccessible to those most-affected.  During last month’s meeting, two other expedited bond resolutions were approved. However, the agency failed to provide an accurate summary of the public comments and concerns — until last night’s meeting. 
Virginia Public Media

Public money is often handed over in the form of grants. But, there’s a debate about how much of that process should be public information. To get grant money from the government for the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative, companies have to fill out grant applications. Sometimes those applications are challenged. That’s a paper trail that’s led to questions about how much of all those documents should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

A member of the Portsmouth school board repeatedly asked the court earlier this year to reduce his child support obligations, according to court documents. Part of De’Andre Barnes’ reasoning: His position on the board prevents him from landing some good-paying jobs. “I never said I can’t get a job,” Barnes, 33, explained Friday in Portsmouth Juvenile Domestic Relations Court. “I said it precludes me from certain opportunities.”
The Virginian-Pilot


stories of national interest

In the Netflix series, "When They See Us," about the Central Park jogger case, created and directed by Ava DuVernay, one character refers to the investigators’ harsh questioning methods as “the Reid technique,” a set of guidelines used by law enforcement agencies across the country in interrogation. A lawsuit filed this week argues that this characterization was wrong. The plaintiff, John E. Reid and Associates, which trains investigators to use the Reid technique, is suing Ms. DuVernay and Netflix for defamation.
The New York Times




editorials & columns

quote_3.jpg"To argue [public libraries are] a relic of the past or a waste of public resources is just asinine."

The impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump continues. Whether the president’s actions have merited impeachment certainly deserves to be investigated and discussed. What concerns us is the furtive methods used while going about the process. We believe impeaching a sitting U.S. president to be of such grave national concern that the American people should have access to everything that is said and done in the effort to remove Trump from office.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The public library is a uniquely American institution and is a foundation stone of our democratic republic. Indeed, the world’s first truly modern public library — one available to all the public — was in the New Hampshire village of Peterborough, opening its doors in 1833. Libraries have changed over the decades, especially in the last 25 years as the internet has become ubiquitous. But to argue they’re a relic of the past or a waste of public resources is just asinine.
Martinsville Bulletin

The ACLU of Virginia is aware of recent efforts to encourage removal of books from the Loudoun County Public Schools’ Diverse Classroom Libraries as well as books donated to 33 schools through the #BigGayBookDrive. We have serious concerns about these efforts and their impact on free speech. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has opposed censorship in all its forms. From books and radio to film, television, and the Internet, we have consistently fought to make sure Americans have the right to say, think, read, and write whatever they want, without fear of reprisal.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Loudoun Times-Mirror