Transparency News 11/14/19



November 14, 2019


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state & local news stories


"The footage showing the removal of the papers was retained and placed in the employee’s personnel file.”

During Virginia Beach’s mass shooting in May, the city didn’t have the ability to alert enough employees as a longtime public utilities engineer gunned down 16 people inside Building 2, a security risk management firm said Wednesday evening.
The firm also found that the attack was not videotaped because there were no cameras on the upper floors of the three-story, 95,000 square foot building. That was just one of the holes in the city’s security systems, according to the findings of an independent investigation into the May 31 shooting. The report follows a Sept. 24 presentation from police, who said they could not determine a motive after they conducted more than 750 interviews and thousands of hours of detective work. The shooter had emailed his resignation from his job the day he carried out the rampage. Police noted that the shooter’s family said he had exhibited paranoid behavior, but he did not leave behind a manifesto explaining why he did it.
The Virginian-Pilot
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Radford University chose not to keep video from some buildings where free student newspapers went missing in September without an explanation for who took them. That video, university spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs said, “was mainly focused on entry and exit points and other main thoroughfares” rather than on newspaper racks. “Therefore,” Scaggs wrote, “the footage was not retained in the RUPD files in accordance with standard operating procedure.” A letter Friday from police to Lepore advised that the classified employee was responsible for the removal of papers from four racks. There was no explanation for the remaining missing papers. The school refused to provide video used to help catch the employee it said is responsible for removing the papers, citing the footage as exempted from release under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. “The footage showing the removal of the papers was retained and placed in the employee’s personnel file,” Scaggs wrote.
The Roanoke Times

Martinsville City Council finally is addressing the topic of reversion publicly. At its meeting on Tuesday council members outlined plans for their public meeting to discuss reversion that is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday. Reversion last was discussed by the council at a closed-door meeting on Oct. 29, a session that did not include a statute-required open session to the public before or after the meeting. The purpose of “the work session… was to discuss the legal details around reversion,” Towarnicki said. “A public information session, a detailed presentation of the reversion information,” will be held on Nov. 19, “at 7 p.m. in this room. It will be a PowerPoint presentation. The meeting will last an hour and there may or may not be time for public comment,” he said. Council member Jennifer Bowles expressed concern about the possibility the public would not be allowed to speak: “I thought we were allowing time for the public to comment?”
Martinsville Bulletin

The judge includes the terms gross negligence and prosecutorial misconduct — referencing either claims by defense attorneys in the case or precedence in other cases — a total of 19 times. Danville Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Newman, who until the case's closing days served as special counsel to federal prosecutors, has admitted that his office did not properly have court reporters document testimony to state special grand juries tasked in recent years with investigating violence in the Dan River Region. As a result, federal prosecutors didn’t have transcripts of key testimony that was relevant to the federal gang case, and did not supply many of them to defense attorneys in time for trial as required. In his ruling issued Friday, Urbanski wrote that Newman’s failure to have court reporters properly document this testimony not only harmed the lone defendant Marcus Jay Davis — a jury on Tuesday declared him guilty — but that it also violates state law. State statute, Urbanski wrote, requires that court reporters transcribe testimony to a multi-jurisdiction grand jury and that those transcriptions be readily available to attorneys. In this case, Newman admitted in federal court that the testimony of many witnesses were not even transcribed, let alone made available to federal prosecutors.
Register & Bee

At a well-attended Strasburg Town Council meeting Tuesday evening, most council members said they hope the mayor will choose to resign. In a lengthy discussion that was part of the meeting agenda, the eight council members gave their thoughts about Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. All but three members — Vice Mayor Scott Terndrup, Councilwoman Taralyn Nicholson and Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena — asked the mayor to consider resigning. Though recognizing what she called “a cloud hanging over the town,” Vena said the mayor has a decision to make. Also at the meeting, the council discussed its options for fighting the possibility of having to pay Orndorff’s legal fees to defend himself against the petition. After consulting with town attorney Nathan Miller, the council voted 5 to 3 in favor of asking Miller to make a motion to the Circuit Court requesting that the town not be responsible for paying the mayor’s legal fees.
The Northern Virginia Daily

During Matt Tederick's first Town Council meeting as interim town manager for Front Royal, citizens took issue with his contract. Tederick served as interim mayor from May through last week. He was then appointed interim town manager upon Joe Waltz's resignation.  Citizens expressed discomfort with a clause in the contract that states Tederick "may transfer and assign this Agreement to Manager's wholly-owned limited liability company (LLC), which transfer and assignment shall not relieve in any manner the personal duties, obligations and responsibilities of Manager." A search of the state corporation commission's website shows that Tederick is the registered agent of over five LLCs. Tederick has said he requested the clause because it allows him to save $6,000 but his accountant found another way to earn those savings and he does not plan on transferring money to an LLC. Councilman Eugene Tewalt served as the lone vote against Tederick's contract, and Tewalt previously said he was not given a copy of the contract to review before the vote. Town Councilman Jacob Meza said he understands citizens’ concerns over how quickly Tederick was chosen and that the selection “could have been more transparent." Due to lacking trust from citizens, he said “we need to be over transparent.”
The Northern Virginia Daily

Richmond city officials are set to hold the first in a series of town halls to discuss a major downtown redevelopment initiative. Mayor Levar Stoney and other officials will be available for questions about the Navy Hill proposal, which includes plans for a high-rise hotel, apartments, commercial space and new arena that would be the largest in the state. The meeting will be held Thursday evening at Carver Elementary School.
The Washington Post


stories of national interest

At a time when some say heightened sensitivities have become the norm on American campuses, it is not uncommon for college newspaper editors to be confronted by students who are upset at being photographed in a public place without being asked for their permission; who view receiving a text message or phone call from a reporter as an invasion of their privacy; and who expect journalists to help assuage their concerns that graphic images in a newspaper could cause trauma to readers.
The New York Times

St. Louis County (Missouri) has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past two years for a website that it plans to scrap because a vendor used programming code the tech staff can’t decipher. The disclosure came during testimony from the county’s acting director of information technology, Charles Henderson, in a budget hearing last week with the County Council. Henderson said, “We have no ability to take that existing application and modify it or add to it or actually make it what it was originally intended to be. The only way to do that is ... hire the same contractor that wrote it because they’re the other ones that had the source code to do any changes or additions. And in my opinion that is throwing good money after bad.” After the hearing, Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, said it was a “glaring example of government waste … clear negligence if not malfeasance.” He said it was unacceptable that a county with an $800 million annual budget had a website such as something from the end of the 20th century.


quote_2.jpg"He said it was unacceptable that a county with an $800 million annual budget had a website such as something from the end of the 20th century."