Transparency News, 1/12/2023


January 12, 2023

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state & local news stories


VCOG's annual bill chart

On Oct. 28, 2021, Loudoun County Public Schools commissioned an independent review of the mishandling of the sexual assaults of two students by a fellow student earlier that year. Fourteen months later, and a year after the report was completed, the results of the 32-page review by Blankingship & Keith, a Fairfax-based law firm whose attorneys include those who specialize in education law, haven’t been made public. A special grand jury report released on Dec. 5 that led to the firing and indictment of former LCPS Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler has increased calls for the release of the review. After Ziegler was replaced by interim Superintendent Daniel W. Smith on Dec. 8, then-board Chairman Jeff Morse, Dulles, said the board would consider releasing the review. But with no release a month later, several speakers at Tuesday’s board meeting demanded it be made public. Daniel Adams, an LCPS spokesman, said in an email on Wednesday the review hasn’t been approved by the board and referred questions to whether it will be released to the board. He said it was paid for by the school district’s municipal insurer and LCPS wasn’t charged for it. However, public money pays the insurer.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

A state commission investigating the 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach hopes to review any useful information gleaned from a laptop allegedly found in the gunman’s condo. Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, who previously announced that the laptop had come into her possession, told the group at its Wednesday meeting in Richmond that she was unable to help. The Virginia Beach Democrat said the laptop was given to the Department of Justice. Her lawyer, Joseph Sherman, in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot later clarified that he had planned to send the laptop to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division prior to the start of the General Assembly’s session, but decided to wait because of the volume of people calling to provide more information. Sherman took the blame for the breakdown in communication, saying he didn’t want to mention new developments to Convirs-Fowler while she was preparing for the first day of the legislative session. “(Convirs-Fowler’s) constituency wants more transparency and less obstruction on behalf of the city into determining why the murderer felt motivated to attack his managers and superiors,” Sherman said.
The Virginian-Pilot

The Warrenton Town Council postponed for at least a month a vote on the data center proposed by Amazon Web Services for Blackwell Road. While there was no formal vote on the matter, council members reached a consensus at a seven-hour meeting and public hearing on the matter Tuesday night, where scores of people registered their opposition to the project. The postponement was prompted by a request from Amazon, whose representative said they wanted more time to consider new conditions the town wanted to impose. Amazon brought its A-team to the work session for its presentation: eight company officials, two civil engineers, one architect and its noise consultant. It was the first time any Amazon officials had appeared before any town planning or legislative body. At one point, after a presentation by Chris Karner, the noise consultant, Councilman Mooney asked, “Why is this the first time we have heard from this gentleman?”
Fauquier Times

The Stafford School Board on Tuesday seated its first-ever student representatives in what Superintendent Thomas Taylor called “a historic moment.” Katherine Buckman, a junior at Mountain View High School, was chosen to be student representative to the board for 2023. Maraki Solomon, a junior at Brooke Point High School, will serve as alternate. “We have our first-time student representatives that will be sitting up here with us, working with us, deciding with us and we are so excited for these two women,” said newly elected School Board Chair Susan Randall after the board approved the appointment of Buckman and Solomon. The board late last year approved a new policy and regulation authorizing the selection of a student representative and alternate.
The Free Lance-Star

editorials & columns

"Without electoral penalty for abusing FOIA loopholes or weakening the law itself, it’s no wonder they continue to do so."

Lawmakers could make improvements [to the Freedom of Information Act] during the legislative session which began Wednesday — capping costs, narrowing loopholes, establishing punishment for purposeful evasion of open government laws — but won’t until the public makes clear that business as usual won’t cut it anymore. There is little reason to believe this year will be different, that lawmakers assembled in Richmond on Wednesday imbued with the spirit of transparency and eager to make FOIA work more effectively for the public. Many open-government advocates are instead hoping that legislators follow the Hippocratic Oath and, first, do no harm. That is unlikely to change until Virginians understand that elected officials’ casual and dismissive view of transparency is because voters let them get away with it. Without electoral penalty for abusing FOIA loopholes or weakening the law itself, it’s no wonder they continue to do so.
The Virginian-Pilot

We journalists dutifully report this and these headlines go into the historical record as evidence of what a great job that particular governor is doing at building our economy. Now comes a little-noticed state report that says, um, most of those announcements simply aren’t true. It’s not that governors or companies are lying. They all surely mean these things when they’re announced, but the catch is many of these job announcements are based on job growth over time, not necessarily on day one. Everybody – governors, companies, even journalists – like the fanciest number available. But most of these job announcements simply don’t pan out the way they’re expected. In fact, sometimes barely a quarter of them do. This information comes from a December report by the state’s watchdog agency, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The analysts at JLARC have been providing a buzzkill for decades – last year JLARC issued 13 different reports at the behest of the General Assembly. The report entitled “Economic Development Incentives 2022” was one of those and it ought to be required reading for all of us who deal with these periodic job announcements.
Cardinal News