Transparency News 11/13/13


Wednesday, November 13, 2013
State and Local Stories


The FOIA Council’s workgroups will meet to review issues related to charging for GIS mapping data (10 a.m.) and to putting some of the State Corporation Commission’s records under the FOIA rubric (1 p.m.). Both meetings are at the General Assembly Building and are open to the public.

It was a question of civility that ruffled his feathers, a lone Roanoke County supervisor out to harpoon a proposed resolution that would require him and his peers to sign a code of conduct. And then, by invoking the words of a former supervisor, Catawba representative Butch Church unequivocally staked his position on the matter.“This job is not for sissies,” Church said. “We’re big boys and girls here.” His four fellow supervisors listened patiently as Church objected to the notion of the resolution, which calls for county supervisors to abstain from making verbal attacks, drop partisanship for the betterment of the county, and respect all points of view, among other things. . . . The relationships between board members are two-sided. During public meetings, tempers flare from time to time, but for the most part board members are mostly sedate. It’s in work sessions, closed meetings and one-on-one interactions where they speak more candidly with one another. Those interactions remain out of the public eye, but rifts do exist.
Roanoke Times

After trailing by as many as 1,200 votes in the race for attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring pulled into an 163-vote lead over Republican Mark Obenshain late on Tuesday. Though the last ballots out of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia had not been registered on the State Board of Elections website, Herring wasted no time in claiming a win.
Daily Press

Lynchburg City Council appears split over the best way to handle license plate readers and privacy concerns. The state attorney general has advised law enforcement agencies that retaining passively collected license plate data runs counter to the Government Collection and Dissemination Practices Act. Councilman Randy Nelson said the city should urge legislators to develop a more reasonable time frame that takes into account the amount of time it usually takes to conclude an investigation. The 24-hour standard is “probably not useful at all given the normal lifespan of investigations,” he said. In addition, many crimes are not reported immediately, he added. In an abduction case, for example, the victim might not be reported as missing until more than 24 hours later. “To arbitrarily, set a time period is just that, arbitrary,” Nelson said. “… We should ask the General Assembly to relook at that time period and define it in some way that is rational and empirically based.”
News & Advance

National Stories

As Michigan officials and union leaders representing more than 35,000 workers prepare for contract impasse hearings this week, the Civil Service Commission is refusing to release documents that outline each side’s position in the dispute. But a Detroit attorney and expert in Michigan’s open records laws says it’s “totally bogus” for the Civil Service Commission to claim the legal exemption it’s using to withhold the documents. The Lansing State Journal filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Nov. 4 asking for position statements and briefs that were filed to the commission as part of the unions’ and the Office of the State Employer’s request for impasse hearings.
Detroit Free Press

Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin and several state lawmakers, alarmed by the flood of secret money that poured into the Boston mayor’s race, are preparing legislation that wouldrequire outside groups to disclose their donors in real time. Outside political committees pumped nearly $4 million into the Boston election, most of it to help elect Martin J. Walsh. But current law does not require those groups to reveal their donors until January. That means voters had no way of knowing, before they cast their ballots, who funded many of the ads that saturated the airwaves during the race. Galvin, who is the state’s top elections official, said he is working with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance in hopes of passing the law before the governor’s race next year, when outside committees are expected to spend even more money to influence the outcome.
Boston Globe

Arguing for a broad interpretation of New York's Shield Law, an attorney for a New York-based reporter under subpoena in Colorado in the "Batman killer" case told the Court of Appeals that the law helped establish New York as the media capital of the world. "The idea that New York, prideful as it was about being the center of the dissemination and the gathering of news throughout the world, would limit its protections to reporters talking to sources in New York about parochial New York affairs flies in the face of the way the Legislature broadly defined news to be worldwide events," said Christopher Handman of Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C. "You don't become the global leader of news gathering and dissemination if all you are doing is reporting on the metro desk," he told the court hearing Holmes v. Winter, 245. He argued that journalist Jana Winter should be allowed to invoke the statute to prohibit a Colorado court from compelling her to reveal her confidential sources in a story she wrote for soon after James Holmes' 2012 shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo.
New York Law Journal

A Tupelo newspaper is asking the Mississippi Ethics Commission for advice on whether an email between the mayor and a department head regarding city business is exempt from the public records law. The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal is seeking access to emails between Mayor Jason Shelton and former city Development Services Director BJ Teal. Tupelo City Attorney Ben Logan recently denied the newspaper's request to release an email between Shelton and Teal sent Oct. 23-26. Logan says the email is a personnel item exempted by the public records law.
Sun Herald


Times-Dispatch: The photo finish in Virginia’s race for attorney general promises to keep Election Day tensions high for several more days, and perhaps several more weeks. Although Democrat Mark Herring has taken the lead fro Republican Mark Obenshain, the victor won’t be known with certainty for some time. Other conclusions, however, already have become apparent. (1) Votes matter…. (2) Elections are messy…(3) In Virginia, elections are clean.