Transparency News, 11/12/21


November 12, 2021
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state & local news stories

Liberty University is responding to a former spokesman’s lawsuit alleging he was fired in retaliation for raising concerns about the handling of sexual misconduct accusations. The evangelical Virginia school filed its responses to Scott Lamb’s suit last week, seeking more than $3 million and a gag order for Lamb, news outlets reported. Because of a confidentiality agreement, the university claims in its response that Lamb breached his contract and fiduciary duties to the school and has defamed the school. Liberty states that after Falwell left, Lamb began cataloging school information in an act of “workplace espionage.”
The Virginian-Pilot

The Dumfries Town Council has banned firearms from its town council chambers via a new ordinance that also calls for the rule to be announced via notices posted at other town facilities, including parks and community centers, in case the town council ever meets in those locations.  The new ordinance was suggested by Vice Mayor Monae Nickerson and approved in a 6-1 vote during the council’s Nov. 3 meeting. Councilman Shaun Peet was the lone vote against it.  In an interview this week, Nickerson said she brought the measure forward because of the current political climate, which has sometimes led to disorderly residents disrupting local government meetings.  
Prince William Times

Some Frederick County residents are calling for the Board of Supervisors to hold Back Creek Supervisor Shawn Graber accountable for allegedly harassing someone at the polls on Election Day. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office responded to the polling location for a “suspicious situation.” According to the police report and body camera footage obtained by The Winchester Star from the Sheriff's Office through a Freedom of Information Act request, one of the deputies who went to the scene was Sean M. Kennedy. Frederick County Education Association President Shaniqua Williams told Kennedy what had happened and said Frederick County supervisor Shawn Graber was intimidating her with his tactics. When deputies questioned Graber, he said he was taking pictures because he had been made aware that illegal sample ballots were being handed out. Graber then pulled out a white piece of paper and stated that you can’t — per Virginia code — use a white sample ballot and with anything less than 24 font size. Williams said she only passed out red ballots. Body camera footage of Williams’ interaction with police shows a red sheet of paper in her hand.
The Winchester Star

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton is pushing back against statements from the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office and members of a local citizens group suggesting he lied about receiving four death threats from an opponent of Isle of Wight County Schools’ equity and inclusion initiatives. At the county School Board’s Nov. 10 meeting, Thornton read aloud two anonymous September emails he took as threats upon his life.  The Times has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request of the school system for the remaining emails, but has not yet been provided with copies.Thornton said he initially contacted Isle of Wight County Schools’ Information Technology Department and asked staff members if they could trace it, but was told since it was anonymous, only law enforcement could dig deeper into the sender’s identity.
The Smithfield Times

stories from around the country
A federal appeals court has agreed to temporarily halt delivery of presidential records to a House committee probing the Jan. 6 attackon the Capitol, handing former President Donald Trump his first win after a series of legal losses at a lower court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said Thursday that it would grant the delay, giving its judges more time to review the case. The appeals court will hold oral arguments on Nov. 30, and the case could eventually be appealed further to the Supreme Court. The National Archives was due to deliver a first tranche of documents to the Democratic-led House panel on Friday at 6 p.m. ET.
editorials & opinion
The death of one person in a police shooting and the death of another during a chase that preceded it raise reasonable questions that law enforcement agencies should be willing to answer in a timely, forthright manner. The public deserves to know what happened. However, the Virginia State Police delayed releasing any information about the shooting or the crash. Inquiries to that agency and the Newport News Police Department have been brushed aside. That leaves the people of Hampton Roads to again ask if transparency from law enforcement — which was promised in response to calls last year for improved police oversight in Virginia and across the nation — will ever come to pass. Newport News police issued a brief statement that they were attempting to pull the car over as a result of an aggravated assault, abduction and DUI, but the details of that were murky. In the news release, authorities said that no additional details would be provided. Here’s why that’s a problem, and not only for journalists. The public has a right to know what is happening on the streets of our communities and how our police forces are operating to keep us all safe.
Daily Press