Transparency News 10/28/13


Monday, October 28, 2013
State and Local Stories


The line of communication between the administration and the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia is not always clear — as demonstrated by last year’s attempted firing of President Teresa A. Sullivan — but the board is working to change that. The Special Committee on Governance and Engagement was formed this year to come up with a “best practices” list to help the board -- made up of gubernatorial appointees -- and the administration -- led by the university president -- to collaborate better.
Daily Progress

The Portsmouth City Council, steaming over not being included in a significant city matter this week, has called a closed meeting to address what three members describe as Mayor Kenny Wright's repeated failure to include them in city business. Discontent with Wright's communication style has been brewing among the council since he took office in November 2010. But council members said the tipping point came Wednesday when the mayor and city manager met with Virginia Department of Transportation officials to resolve tunnel closure issues without telling, or involving, them.

The Hampton Sheriff's Office says a list of all incoming phone calls to its records division on Oct. 9 show no calls from the Newport News Sheriff's Office — as a dispute continues over the accidental release of a Hampton murder defendant earlier this month. On Tuesday, the Daily Press asked for call logs from the Newport News Sheriff's Office and to Hampton Sheriff's Office records division. An examination of those calls, Rich said, showed that none came from the Newport News Sheriff's Office. "We wanted to make sure we didn't get the call," he said. "So I asked, 'How can we validate this?' ... And I'll be honest with you, it made me feel a lot better. It gave me validation that what I said was correct." A week ago, Newport News’ Sheriff Gabe Morgan provided the Daily Press a copy of a screen shot of the Newport News Jail Management System that Morgan says is time-stamped and impossible to doctor. "NO CHARGES IN HAMPTON NO PENDING PER HAMPTON RECORDS DEPT," Newport News Sheriff's Deputy Robert Allen wrote in the memo line. Morgan said a state and national fugitive database was also checked. The log lists a "clear date" of 4:16 p.m. on Oct. 9.
Daily Press

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears the case of the Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Susan Galloway on Nov. 6, Hashmel Turner will be watching—and praying—from the spectators’ side. But it was not that long ago that he could have been a more active participant in a similar case, bearing the name of Hashmel C. Turner Jr. v. the City Council of the City of Fredericksburg. Turner v. Fredericksburg, like Greece v. Galloway, involved prayer at City Council meetings. But unlike Greece v. Galloway, when it was appealed to the nation’s highest court, it was declined.
Free Lance-Star

Some of the county's juiciest stories might very well be buried in chancery court archives from hundreds of years ago. "Divorces are my favorite," said Sarah Nerney, senior local records archivist for the Library of Virginia. "Sometimes they're just hilarious. ... Just like today, it's he said/she said all day long." Nerney, who spoke this week at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, teaches people how to access and use the library's chancery court records to find history. Often, she said, those records include some intriguing tidbits relating to the county's history in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Herald Courier

National Stories

Maryland State Police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigative journalist for The Washington Times who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department's Federal Air Marshals Service. Reporter Audrey Hudson said the investigators, who included an agent for Homeland Security's Coast Guard service, made a pre-dawn raid of her family home Aug. 6 and took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Washington Times

Alabama blogger Roger Shuler was arrested Wednesday after allegedly violating a judge’s order that he not publish stories about a supposed affair involving the son of a former state governor, according to a news report and his wife Carol Shuler. Police charged the blogger with contempt of court and resisting arrest, Carol Shuler said in an interview Friday. Roger Shuler has run “Legal Schnauzer,” a blog focused on exposing political corruption, since 2007. He is being held on a $1,000 bond on the resisting arrest charge, but bond was not set for the two contempt charges, his wife said. She also alleged that he was physically roughed up by police during his arrest. Shuler had written a series of stories claiming that Robert Riley, Jr., son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley, had an affair with lobbyist Liberty Duke. Riley is an attorney who has been mentioned by news outlets in the state as a potential candidate for a soon-to-be vacant U.S. House of Representatives seat.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Ken Starr was among the panelists Friday who came together for a discussion in Washington titled "Today's Supreme Court: Tradition v. Technology and Transparency." The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press hosted the event, at which The National Law Journal's Tony Mauro moderated. One enduring topic on Supreme Court transparency front: cameras. Today’s panelists largely agreed that cameras should be allowed in the high court. O'Connor said she hasn’t seen any distractions in the ten years the Ohio Supreme Court has permitted cameras. "There is no downside to having that kind of exposure to oral arguments," she said. Starr argued that cameras would further open the court to the public and provide civic education. "The costs are modest to none and the benefits are legion and powerful," Starr said.
Blog of LegalTimes

A state investigation into a network of nonprofit groups that funneled $11 million into initiative campaigns in California last year has revealed the identities of dozens of previously hidden donors to the various organizations. Those contributors include owners of the Gap Inc., for which California First Lady Anne Gust Brown was once a top executive, investor Charles Schwab and Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad. The groups they donated to gave money to other organizations, which gave to the campaigns.
Los Angeles Times