Transparency News, 10/7/20


 October 7, 2020
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state & local news stories
“The Virginia Parole Board maintains its FOIA exclusions and has not waived its FOIA protections.”
The Office of the State Inspector General has substantiated six additional allegations leveled at the Virginia Parole Board after investigating complaints about how the panel reached its decision in a single unidentified case, but details of the findings have been stricken entirely from copies of the government watchdog agency’s reports released Tuesday. The Inspector General determined that a seventh allegation against the parole board was unsubstantiated. The agency also released a copy of recommendations on how the parole board should proceed going forward. “VPB should develop and attest to a Code of Ethics that focuses on impartiality, integrity and transparency when making all parole-related decisions,” according to one of the recommendations. In an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the inspector general’s office said information it received to conduct the administrative “fraud, waste and abuse hotline investigation” is exempt under the state’s open records law, adding, “The Virginia Parole Board maintains its FOIA exclusions and has not waived its FOIA protections.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Charlottesville City Council officially has dissolved several defunct committees, transitioned others to new roles and has plans to revisit more. The council agreed to dissolve the Belmont Bridge Steering Committee, Hydraulic Road Planning Advisory Panel and Streets that Work/Code Audit Steering Committee. The need that caused those committees to exist in the first place has passed, councilors said. The council made the moves during a virtual work session Tuesday held to discuss its 34 appointed bodies. The council has discussed a need to revisit all of its committees throughout the years, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought the issue to the forefront. Throughout the summer, the city has addressed whether it would allow some committees to meet virtually on an ad-hoc basis as issues arose. Four committees are transitioning from council-appointed advisory bodies to staff advisory panels: the Parking Advisory Panel, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, PLACE Design Task Force and the Water Resources Protection Program Advisory Committee.Those committees still will have public meetings and take input, councilors said.
The Daily Progress

A Bristol Virginia Police Department officer was suspended Saturday “based on a traffic stop” he was involved in Friday, according to City Manager Randy Eads. Eads, however, was mum about the details, including the officer’s name and what occurred during the traffic stop, saying it’s a personnel matter. According to a Saturday post on the Police Department’s Facebook page, the department’s administration was aware of a video of an encounter with one of its officers that was circulating on social media. “It is being investigated and will be handled once all information is gathered,” the post states.
Bristol Herald Courier


editorials & columns
"In the three years following a newspaper's exit, the cost of government goes up."
The University of Virginia has continuously promised us clear and regular communication regarding COVID-19 policy and changes to it. Yet, the most recent policy changes went into effect Sept. 23 at 9 a.m. — about 24 hours before the University decided to notify all community members via email.  The bottom line is that the University is making closed-door decisions without informing students in a timely or consistent manner. Students and employees of the University have a right to know how decisions are being made that will directly affect their livelihood and ability to sustain themselves. The University needs to be transparent with all of its planning and protocol should we continue to see a rise in cases. Hopefully — next time — they will at least have the common courtesy to send an email beforehand. 
The Cavalier Daily

No one has come up with a perfect solution for the preservation of independent local news in some form, but the need is more urgent than ever. A slow-moving financial crisis in journalism is now gaining speed with today's pandemic-fueled recession, and the costs are mounting, not just to local news but to local democracy. Recent studies suggest that nearly any measure of governance is negatively affected by the decline of local journalism. Take public safety, for instance. It turns out that decreasing TV news coverage of local wrongdoing leads to a meaningful decline in clearance rates for violent crimes. Public finances also take a hit when local news coverage drops. In the three years following a newspaper's exit, the cost of government goes up: taxes, payrolls, average wages, deficits and borrowing costs all rise, especially in states already suffering from poor governance. And in an election year, let's not forget partisan politics. That, too, worsens when local news dries up. 
Michael Hendrix, Governing