Transparency News 10/31/18



October 31, 2018


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state & local news stories


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There’s a long-held superstition, especially among first responders and emergency personnel, that people act a bit stranger when there’s a full moon. Call it a myth. Call it the witching hour. Or call it lunacy, a word that for hundreds of years implied that the moon causes madness. But is there any truth to it? The Richmond Times-Dispatch asked the Richmond Police Department for every crime reported over the course of a year to see if there was a link between higher incidents of crime and nights with a full moon. The communications department also provided the number of emergency calls on those occasions. Crime data from 2017 show there is only a slightly higher number of crimes reported on nights with a full moon, which occur about every 29.5 days. Crime reports ticked up slightly on All Hallows’ Eve, as well. On Oct. 31, 2017, there were 113 offenses reported. That’s 13 more crimes than an average Tuesday, the day on which Halloween fell last year.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Four people who were arrested during an Albemarle County School Board meeting in August were found guilty of misdemeanor charges Tuesday. Six arrests were made inside and outside Lane Auditorium in the County Office Building on Aug. 30 during a School Board meeting at which the board discussed a proposed ban of Confederate images to the division’s dress code.
The Daily Progress

The Loudoun County School Board has set two meetings to appoint a member to fill the Catoctin District seat, which was vacated by Eric DeKenipp last week.  Thus far, three people have expressed interest in serving as the Catoctin representative, one of whom was endorsed by DeKenipp. The School Board will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26, during which it will interview potential candidates for the seat and take public comment on the candidates. The School Board is still accepting candidates. Anyone interested in being appointed to the Catoctin District seat must file a statement of interest with the School Board on or before noon Nov. 26. The statement must include documentation the applicant is a registered voter and a resident of the Catoctin Election District, description of the applicant’s qualifications for appointment and any other information the applicant wants considered by the School Board. Submitted information is subject to disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, LCPS officials said.
Loudoun Times-Mirror


national stories of interest

More often than not, requesters face crucial barriers to obtaining access to government records. Whether it be exemptions to records, access to certain areas of government, or grey areas within public records law, the rules to getting the documents differ across the board. Within states, FOIA serves as a framework to public records law, yet, each state has the ability to create their own set of guidelines as they deem fit. Since many of our public records laws do not transcend state lines, being knowledgeable on your state laws is crucial in filing a records request. In a goal to arm requesters with knowledge, we’re launching a new project page hosting state-by-state public record law stories and key players fighting for transparency in those states. Do you want to know what Tennessee lawmakers have to say about their 500+ state exemptions? Are you looking for your state’s costliest public records request? Or maybe you just want to know which legislatures are exempt from public records laws. Whatever your public record inquiries are, our new State of the State Public Records Laws Project will give you a more comprehensive look at public records law in action.

In a “first-of-its kind” enforcement proceeding, the (Uniontown, Pennsylvania) Herald-Standard was awarded nearly $120,000 in legal fees stemming from an open records fight with the state Department of Corrections. “Requester here advocated the public interest in a matter of public health affecting a captive population,” wrote Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson. In March, Simpson found that the DOC acted in bad faith when officials repeatedly failed to turn over information about inmate illness at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette and other state prisons, despite being ordered to so. He fined the agency $1,500. The bad faith finding and fine were both firsts, as was Simpson’s decision to award the paper $118,458.37, a portion of the fees it took to fight the three-year legal battle.

For a century and a half in New Hampshire, citizens could sue their state if they believed its actions were illegal or unconstitutional -- regardless of whether it violated their personal rights. Then, in 2014, the state Supreme Court ended that right. In November, Granite Staters have the chance to revive it.  If voters approve Question 1 on the state's ballot, taxpayers would get back their power to sue state or local government -- even if their personal rights were not violated by the alleged injustice.



"Whatever your public record inquiries are, our new State of the State Public Records Laws Project will give you a more comprehensive look at public records law in action."