Transparency News 11/2/18



November 2, 2018


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state & local news stories


 "This is about ordinary documents in the ordinary course of government that all citizens should be entitled to.”

Can the government refuse to disclose how it used taxpayer dollars to challenge a citizen in court? The Supreme Court of Virginia will consider that question this week in the case of Bergano v. Virginia Beach. The case involves an eminent domain fight between a Virginia Beach dentist and the City of Virginia Beach. Dr. Allen Bergano wants to know exactly what services the city received when it spent roughly $400,000 on a private attorney to challenge him in court over relocation benefits. But the city redacted much of that information in a response to Bergano’s request. "This is about ordinary documents in the ordinary course of government that all citizens should be entitled to,” said Joseph T. Waldo, an attorney for Bergano.

The day before it was scheduled to be heard, the chairman of the city Republican Committee withdrew his civil suit against Hopewell’s registrar after the information he requested about election officer party affiliation was released to him. Brandon Howard confirmed late Tuesday that he had received documents that day from General Registrar Yolanda W. Stokes providing the party designation for all of the city’s election officers. The suit had been set for a hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Hopewell Circuit Court. Howard claims Stokes was violating the state Freedom of Information Act by not properly releasing that information to him. When he pursued the matter further, he said Stokes offered to share that information but only about the chief and assistant chief election officer in each Hopewell precinct, again a violation of the election code.
The Progress-Index

The Shenandoah County Voter Registrar’s Office has been relocated to another area of the County Government building in Woodstock due to a fire in that office earlier this morning. A release from the county administrator’s office states that the fire is under investigation. “At this stage in the investigation indications are that the fire was accidental in nature caused by a malfunctioning printer,” the release states. County Registrar Lisa W. McDonald stated that voter records were not impacted by the fire. “Based on our preliminary review of the damage resulting from the sprinkler system’s activation it appears all voter records and any absentee ballots cast in advance of next week’s election have been protected and are secure,” she stated. “We are grateful the damage was not more extensive.”
The Northern Virginia Daily


editorials & columns


"What Cicilline knows is that one of the greatest threats to journalism today is . . . one of economics."

THE VALUE of a free press is properly established in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Our country’s founders understood the importance of preserving and protecting the “press” — which now includes broadcast stations and online media — from government interference or control. The newspapers at the time were highly partisan, and they published many anonymous — and often highly inflammatory — articles and opinion pieces about politics and political leaders. So, the First Amendment protections were designed to protect a full range of coverage and opinion. Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were among early American leaders who used printed publications to share their views, as well as criticize their opponents. Most of today’s media are tame compared to those days. But the original protections for a free press remain firmly established and have withstood attacks of all sorts for more than 200 years. So, it might come as a surprise to learn that U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., introduced a bill earlier this year that’s known as the “Journalism Competition and Protection Act of 2018.” One of the bill’s primary goals is to ensure a “free and vibrant” press for the future. What Cicilline knows is that one of the greatest threats to journalism today is not government censorship, claims about “fake news” or even bullying from powerful leaders and interest groups – even though those are concerns. The more powerful threat is one of economics. 
The Virginian-Pilot