Transparency News, 10/29/20


 October 29, 2020
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state & local news stories

The Democratic Party of Virginia and Richmond’s top elections official are working to resolve a legal dispute over the release of a list of voters whose ballots haven’t been processed due to errors. DPVA Chairwoman Susan Swecker on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Showalter, arguing the registrar and her office had violated the state’s public records laws by failing to provide the party with the list of voters. The case was set for a Wednesday hearing at 2 p.m. before a Richmond circuit court judge; the hearing was delayed as the two parties worked to resolve their differences. The Richmond Electoral Board briefly discussed the substance of the lawsuit Tuesday night and distributed a list of voters whose ballots had errors. Jim Nachman, the board’s chairman, said the city’s election office did not intend to “hide” any records or “stonewall” requests for them.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

To the extent that Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors Chair Christine Smith is proposing the BOS go into “closed session” at its next regular meeting on Monday, purportedly to discuss County Administrator Garrey W. Curry’s performance in office, although she never identifies any individual county employee by name.  Reached by email for clarification this evening, Smith declined to speak on the record with the Rappahannock News. However, in an exchange of emails with the county administrator that began at 6:59 a.m. this morning (Monday), Smith wrote:  “One last [agenda] item for next Monday[’s BOS meeting] would be a personnel discussion during closed session as it relates to the botched notice for the recent joint [comprehensive plan] worksession. Please confirm that this has been added to the agenda with the particulars required. Thank you, Christine.” Curry knows very well about the “botched notice,” as Smith referred to it. He took the blame last week for his role in failing to post within the required Virginia FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) time frame advanced notice of a special Planning Commission meeting concurrent with a BOS special meeting on Monday, Oct. 19 to discuss the county’s comprehensive plan.
Rappahannock News

Fired Portsmouth City Attorney Solomon Ashby is suing Mayor John Rowe for defamation — the latest political fallout from a June 10 protest at the city’s downtown Confederate monument. Ashby’s lawsuit, filed Oct. 20 in Norfolk Circuit Court, cites a WVEC-TV interview aired shortly after the attorney’s Sept. 8 ouster. During the interview, Rowe said a majority of City Council members had “lost confidence” in Ashby and City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton. Rowe referred to an email in which Ashby advised council members to “resist any inclination to act in a manner that may be in violation of the law” as they considered firing Pettis Patton. The attorney expressed concern that doing so could be construed as interference in Pettis Patton’s oversight of a department head, which would violate an often-cited city charter provision that bars council members from giving orders to subordinates of the city manager. Rowe described that as “not very balanced and good advice.” Ashby said the mayor’s public criticism damaged his reputation, causing “great humiliation, shame, vilification, exposure to public infamy, scandal, and disgrace.” He’s asking for $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages and expenses.
The Virginian-Pilot

Seconds after many people in the Harrisonburg area were jolted awake by a large explosion on the morning of Oct. 17, calls poured into the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Emergency Communications Center. Frantic residents, many unaware of what happened, began dialing 911. The first call at 8:28:53 a.m. was from a resident near Urban Exchange in downtown Harrisonburg reporting a loud explosion somewhere nearby.
Daily News Record
stories from around the country
The North Carolina pastor accused of urinating on a Delta airline passenger two weeks ago has been identified, authorities said Tuesday.  Daniel Chalmers was arrested by the Wayne Metro Airport police in Detroit after the Delta flight landed at the Detroit Metro Airport on Oct. 12, according to a police report. The Wayne County Airport Authority provided the police report Tuesday to the Winston-Salem Journal in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Chalmers' age, hometown and cellphone number were redacted in the report obtained by the Journal.
Winston-Salem Journal

editorials & columns
So let’s get this straight: Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith established a committee to strengthen relationships and build greater trust between his department and city residents — but he will publicly identify only one of the members. Where is the transparency and accountability? The chief said he’d have to check with the members if a reporter could attend meetings, though he would support media coverage because “it’s great work.” If that’s the case, then Smith needs to disclose the names and demand that members step forward. If they don’t, then they should step down and be replaced with members who are willing to publicly participate. How can the committee claim any legitimacy if we don’t know who the members are?
Richmond Times-Dispatch