Transparency News 11/12/13

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
State and Local Stories


Democratic state Sen. Mark Herring took the lead in the extraordinarily tight Virginia attorney general race Monday evening, after he picked up more than 100 previously uncounted votes in Richmond. Herring had started the day trailing his Republican opponent, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, by a mere 17 votes out of 2.2 million cast. But as jurisdictions across the state continued to scrub their vote counts, the State Board of Elections showed Herring with a 117-vote lead late Monday.
Washington Post

The Loudoun County School Board is seeking input for its superintendent search. Through an online survey, officials are asking parents and other community members what characteristics they want to see in the new schools chief.Edgar B. Hatrick III announced last summer that he plans to retire at the end of June. He is the longest-serving superintendent in the region, after more than two decades in the job and nearly a half century with Loudoun schools.
Washington Post

The Spotsylvania School Board resolved to review its policy forbidding non-school use of district email addresses after a citizen brought member J. Gilbert “Gil” Seaux’s email use in political literature to its attention.  The issue was introduced during the board’s Oct. 28 meeting, when Spotsylvania resident Ron Fiske provided the board with a copy of the Free Lance–Star election insert, in which Seaux provided his school email address for communication with voters.
Free Lance-Star

Lynchburg City Council will discuss legislative priorities for the upcoming 2014 General Assembly session Tuesday. Suggested changes include urging representatives to increase state aid for libraries and to fully fund the recommended Virginia Retirement System rates for teacher pension plans. In response to earlier comments from council, a section related to license plate reader data was added.
News & Advance

The University of Virginia Library has been awarded a grant to enable a collection of works about the European exploration of North America to be viewed online. The university says the Detroit-based McGregor Fund has awarded U.Va. a $245,000 grant for a three-year effort to convert a significant portion of its McGregor Library of American History to digital format.
News Leader

A bird's eye view is part of the town of Culpeper's brand new online mapping system going live today.  Aerial photography highlights the six-month long project that substantially upgraded the town's Geographic Information Systems site at The Internet-based application relies on a simple and intuitive mapping interface allowing users to access local government real estate tax data and maps, according to a news release Monday.  The GIS can also be accessed via - click "more links" on the right side and then GIS online.

An independent auditor that reviewed student activity funds at Mecklenburg County schools found that the accounts have been used by administrators to pay for such items as new classroom furnishings and employee salaries, “in direct noncompliance” with state law and state and local policies that govern the use of such funds. In an Aug. 26 letter addressed to Mecklenburg County School Board Chairman Robert Puryear, the auditing firm — Creedle, Jones & Alga, P.C. — found “several areas of weakness and exceptions to established accounting and internal control policies” by the Central Office. Among other alleged missteps, the auditors wrote, the administration tapped the accounts to advance the salary of a basketball coach and buy new desks and chairs for students to ease adoption of the Project Based Learning curriculum in Mecklenburg schools.
Mecklenburg Sun

The City Council is poised to make longer School Board terms a legislative priority next year. City administrators have suggested that officials support extending terms for the board members to three years from two. The move would bring Norfolk in line with other appointed boards across the state, said Bryan Pennington, the city's director of intergovernmental relations. Norfolk GAINS, a school advocacy group, pushed board tenure into the spotlight this year, citing problems with instability, which some say comes from the board's revolving door of leaders.

A highly regarded school principal in Fairfax County and her former finance aide have been arrested and charged with embezzlement and money laundering, authorities said. They were identified by county police as Sonya Swansbrough, 46, the principal at Poe Middle School, and Bethany Speed, 38, an administrative assistant at J.E.B. Stuart High School. The arrests were linked to allegations that “involved falsifying timesheets for personal financial gain,” a police statement said.
Washington Post

National Stories

A judge will decide this week which court will hear a lawsuit against filmmaker Spike Lee over a tweet that misidentified an elderly couple's address in Florida as the home of George Zimmerman. Less than a month before the tweet was posted, Zimmerman, a white, Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager walking in his Sanford, Florida, housing complex. Elaine McClain, 72, filed the lawsuit in Florida state court this fall, claiming Oscar-nominated director Lee encouraged "a dangerous mob mentality" when he tweeted her address to 240,000 followers.

A judge Friday dismissed state schools chief Glenda Ritz’s lawsuit against fellow members of the Indiana State Board of Education, saying she didn’t have authority to file the legal action. But Ritz said she’s not ready to give up. Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg did not rule on the merits of her allegations. Her lawsuit alleged that the board violated the state’s open meeting law by signing off on a letter — without her knowledge — that asked for a state agency other than her Department of Education to calculate A-to-F ratings for the state’s schools. But he did determine that Ritz couldn’t file the lawsuit and be represented by department attorneys. She needed to be represented by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, the state’s chief attorney.
Indianapolis Star