Transparency News, 10/5/21


October 5, 2021
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state & local news stories
Roanoke Councilman Robert Jeffrey Jr. faces new charges of defrauding the city of Roanoke. A grand jury indictment accuses Jeffrey of taking substantially more than $1,000 “by false pretense” from the city Economic Development Authority, according to a statement from Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell. Jeffrey was already charged with embezzlement — indicted under a different set of felony charges last summer — when Monday’s charges were announced. His first trial is scheduled in three weeks. Jeffrey has no known ties to the economic development authority, which is a conduit financier for certain projects happening in the city. It is controlled by a seven-person board appointed by council. How Jeffrey allegedly obtained EDA funds is not explained in Caldwell’s statement or the indictment paperwork. The alleged crimes — there are two new felony counts — took place between mid-November and early December 2020. At that time, Jeffrey had recently been elected and he was a few weeks away from being sworn in.
The Roanoke Times

Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker accused the city manager, Chip Boyles, of being strong-armed by a police association into firing former Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Walker made the accusation at the end of Monday’s marathon City Council meeting, during which she grilled the city manager for details on why he fired Brackney. The Central Virginia chapter of the Police Benevolent Association wanted Brackney gone, Walker said. And they had secret recordings of Assistant Chief James Mooney that, she believes, they used to coerce Boyles into removing Brackney. Walker then played clips of audio from calls between her and Boyles that she had recorded in August. In the call, Boyles explained that Michael Wells, the president of the Central Virginia chapter of the PBA, had recordings of Mooney that could be unfavorable. 
Charlottesville Tomorrow

The group Fight for Schools now has the signatures needed to file removal petitions against School Board members Denise Corbo (At-Large) and Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) in circuit court. The news comes the day before a hearing for the case to remove Beth Barts (Leesburg). While Virginia does not have a recall process, removal is possible if a court finds “neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office,” or after conviction for some crimes.
stories from around the country
Media exposure on the impact of ransomware attacks has been growing and has come to consume both public- and private-sector leadership, who now recognize it as the No. 1 cybersecurity risk factor facing their organizations. According to The Washington Post, more than 400 ransomware attacks have hit city and county governments in the United States since 2016, affecting hospitals, school districts and higher education, police departments, and a variety of other municipal services. State governments have seen attacks on agencies as varied as Texas’ and Colorado’s transportation departments, New Mexico’s utilities regulation commission and the agency that operates Massachusetts’ ferries. Mike Russo, a former chief information security officer for the state of Florida, told me that “five years ago, my comment about ransomware would have been simple — it’s a form of extortion, it’s illegal, and no one should pay a ransom.” However, Russo added, “cryptocurrency, cybersecurity insurance and the growth of sophisticated and targeted attacks have reshaped the landscape, and the risk of disruption to citizen’s services has been dramatically altered. There is no longer a simple answer, and whether to pay or not needs to be a well-considered option based upon the risk and impact to the organization and their citizens.”