Transparency News 11/14/17

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

State and Local Stories

Richmond posted a $16.9 million surplus for the fiscal year that ended in June, the Richmond City Council learned Monday as Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration gave an on-time presentation of an annual report that had been late the previous three years.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

For more than a week, Portsmouth has been collecting glass, paper and plastic from curbside bins and taking it to an incinerator – without telling the public that its recyclables are going to the same place as the rest of its trash. The items are being dumped at the Wheelabrator Technologies plant, where waste is burned into steam energy for nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard and electricity that’s sold onto the grid. The city’s green recycling trucks used to take them to a facility owned by Recycling & Disposal Solutions of Virginia, but a contract with the company ran out earlier this year, and Portsmouth has yet to pick a replacement. City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton said she expects officials to come up with a finalist in “the next couple of weeks.” Sources who spoke to The Virginian-Pilot on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from city officials expressed concern that people weren’t told about the change in service, which started in early November after the recycling contract expired.
The Virginian-Pilot

Spotsylvania County School Board members agreed Monday night that the Constitution protects the Courtland High School football players who knelt in protest during the national anthem before games last month. The players’ actions drew criticism from two residents who addressed the School Board, while eight speakers—including a Marine Corps veteran—defended the First Amendment rights of the student athletes. Six of the seven School Board members said they can’t force students to stand during the national anthem, regardless of their personal opinions. Member Kirk Twigg did not share his view. “The students who kneel, I don’t agree with it because I stand, but that is their right,” member Dawn Shelley said. “Once they step over that threshold into a school, they’re not shedding their rights.”
Free Lance-Star

The ballot controversy in Stafford County will linger for at least another day. During its noon meeting on Monday, Stafford’s electoral board voted, 2-1, to delay a decision about certifying absentee and provisional ballots until Tuesday. The board then went into closed session. Doug Filler, the electoral board chairman, said the delay will give people with questions about their vote time to come forward. After the closed session, he said the board voted to get a judicial opinion on the votes in question.
Free Lance-Star

Government works. In the current political climate, that’s a statement that can come off as bold, or even radical or controversial. Hyperpartisanship has put a chokehold on Washington, and on some state capitols and city halls. It often seems impossible to get anything done at all. But the best public servants know that isn’t true. They know the power of the public sector to innovate, to find a way forward, to make real improvements in the lives of all Americans. They know that government can, in fact, get it done. Each year, Governing honors outstanding public officials who have made an indelible impact on the lives of the people they serve. This year’s nine honorees are outstanding examples of the strong determination, the bold ideas and the incredible amount of grit it takes to get things done in government. One of those nine is Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

National Stories

The CIA delayed responding to requests for information about its longtime counter-espionage chief, James Angleton, as it tried to minimize the disclosure of his activities related to Soviet defectors and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, newly released documents show.  "Don't answer his initial request any sooner than necessary," said a May 31, 1979, internal CIA memo about a Freedom of Information Act request from author David Martin, who is now a CBS News correspondent. "When we do, deny release of any of the information, maintaining it is still classified and involves protection of sources and methods." Martin was seeking information about the agency's handling of Yuri Nosenko, a former KGB agent who defected to the United States in 1964. Angleton and some of his colleagues in the CIA and FBI considered Nosenko a possible double agent.

A federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., seemed skeptical of arguments by the government on Monday that the FBI has fully complied with an open records request about its practice of impersonating journalists in criminal investigations. The Associated Press and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argue in a lawsuit filed in 2015 that in searching for records responsive to their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the FBI ignored certain locations where the records could have been found. In oral arguments Monday, Judges Brett Kavanaugh, David Tatel and Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit repeatedly pressed Justice Department lawyer Joseph Busa about why the FBI did not explain in greater detail how it conducted the searches. Tatel said that D.C. Circuit case law shows that merely “passing along” a FOIA request to different components of the agency isn’t enough to satisfy the FBI’s burden under the law. The agency should, Tatel said, describe how a search was done.
The National Law Journal

Muncie, Indiana, officials won't release any details of contracts and pay for three Indianapolis attorneys hired to defend the city of Muncie and Mayor Dennis Tyler from a lawsuit filed by the former police chief. City officials on Monday denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Star Press on Nov. 2, the day the newspaper reported that three attorneys from Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller had entered appearances on behalf of Tyler and the city in the federal court lawsuit filed in mid-October by Steve Stewart. Two Indiana experts on the release of public information, including the state public access counselor, said the city's denial of The Star Press' FOIA request was "irregular," "unusual" or, in the words of the general counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association, "wrong."
The Star Press