Transparency News 10/8/19



October 8, 2019


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state & local news stories


Get your tickets to VCOG's Media Awards Luncheon, Nov. 18, in Richmond. Early-bird prices last until the end of this week!

dispute over publication of a legal notice could kill a Winchester ballot referendum before a single vote is cast. The referendum in question asks city residents if they want City Council to continue appointing members to the Winchester School Board or if board seats should become elected positions. Virginia law requires that ballot issues be properly advertised in a community’s newspaper of record — in this case, The Winchester Star — on a weekly basis beginning at least three weeks before an election. Roya Milotte, chief organizer of a petition drive that led to the School Board referendum being placed on the Nov. 5 ballot, has been informed by the Winchester Circuit Court Clerk’s Office that she is responsible for paying for the newspaper ads because she filed the petition with the court, though the Clerk’s Office is responsible for placing the ads. Some officials, however, believe the Clerk’s Office is responsible for paying for the ads. This is the first time Winchester has had a citizen-initiated voter referendum on the ballot, which is responsible for some of the confusion.
The Winchester Star

A state agricultural field office lost telephone service for 27 days in the spring because of a technology problem that was supposed to be solved in four hours. A transportation district office employing 800 people has experienced 14 outages in its information technology network in the past year, disrupting email, invoicing and other services for as long as 12 hours at a time.  Meanwhile, the state’s IT office has left millions of dollars of potential civil penalties uncollected from suppliers for not meeting the terms of their contracts to provide services to 65 executive branch agencies that employ 55,000 people. More than a year after a messy divorce from Northrop Grumman, a new legislative study shows Virginia struggling through some rough patches in its relationship with eight vendors under a new IT operating system that ultimately is supposed to reap big annual savings and better services for state agencies.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Half a year ago, Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe said he wanted a committee to tackle issues of race in the deeply divided city. City Council members, split on the suggestion, were supposed to weigh the merits of such a task force — and potentially spending $50,000 on it — after they wrapped up budget talks on May 14. The plan was to have a meeting about Rowe’s proposal by the end of that month. But it never happened. In a phone interview Thursday, Rowe said it’s hard getting people together over the summer and that he wants to schedule a conversation “sometime between now and our retreat in February.”
The Virginian-Pilot

Judge William R. Savage turned down a former Ivor town clerk’s plea for bond during a hearing on Friday morning in the Southampton District Court. This decision requires Jennifer M. Bumgardner of Zuni to begin fulfilling her one-year sentence of active incarceration. She is ordered to report to the Southampton County Jail on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 8, and later will be taken to another facility, not yet determined. Bumgardner had been found guilty on June 18 of multiple counts of embezzling as much as (potentially) $84,000-plus from the Town of Ivor over the past several years. In 2018, the newly-elected town mayor, Tara Kea, had discovered discrepancies in the bookkeeping, which led to an investigation, arrest and trial of Bumgardner, who also served as treasurer. 
The Tidewater News


stories of national interest

An Oklahoma organization advocating for free information awarded the OU Board of Regents a prize recognizing “an individual, agency or organization that has most thwarted the free flow of information” at a ceremony this week. Freedom of Information Oklahoma, an organization that supports individuals and organizations who provide the public with open records, gave the board its 2019 Black Hole Award, according to a press release. Andy Moore, Freedom of Information Oklahoma executive director, said the Black Hole Award went to the board due to lack of transparency surrounding the presidential search that selected former OU President James Gallogly and the selection of interim OU President Joseph Harroz.
OU Daily