Transparency News 11/27/19



November 27, 2019


I've created a #GivingTuesday fundraiser on VCOG's Facebook page. Click here to support VCOG's advocacy efforts
during the 2020 General Assebly session.

p.s. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! We will return on Monday, Dec. 2.



state & local news stories


The FOIA Council's latest opinion, AO-09-19, addresses the redaction of names in various emails by UVA using the anonymous fundraising exemption. Though unable to determine if the redacted names were indeed donors who requested anonymity, the council does confirm that the exemption can only be used for records maintained "in connection with fundraising activities." That is, if the name appeared in records in a non-fundraising context they could not be redacted.
AO-09-19 (on VCOG's website)

A recent audit of the city’s tourism coffers uncovered a $500 million discrepancy in visitor spending estimates that officials have unknowingly — and incorrectly — touted as extra revenue. Though the math was off, the numbers were used to promote Virginia Beach and to justify delaying the start of the school year until after Labor Day. The audit also revealed that two developers inked incentive deals with the city years ago in exchange for providing entertainment and parking spaces in the resort area. “Both supported by signed agreements, but nevertheless, interesting deals,” said City Auditor Lyndon Remias. The findings came to light when Remias began scrutinizing money in the city’s tourism investment and advertising programs from 2016 to 2019. Tax revenues from hotel rooms, restaurant meals, amusements and cigarette sales help support events and services that draw visitors to Virginia Beach.
The Virginian-Pilot

A pro-journalism nonprofit sent Radford University a letter this week critical of its handling of its student-run newspaper over the last few months, including the school’s investigation of reported missing copies of a September Tartan edition. The Society of Professional Journalists Virginia Professional Chapter is asking for the university to release the employee’s name whom the school has said admitted to removing copies of the Sept. 18 edition of The Tartan from four campus racks. The school’s administration has declined multiple requests from various news outlets to do so, citing it as a personnel issue that is exempt from Freedom of Information laws. The university has no response to the letter, according to spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs.
The Roanoke Times


stories of national interest

Last week's Louisiana ransomware attack affected approximately 10 percent of the 5,000 servers within the state government’s IT infrastructure, making it one of the largest cyberattacks on the state to date. Neal Underwood, deputy chief information officer for the Office of Information Technology (OIT), revealed the news during a last-minute hearing Friday morning, in which legislators quizzed numerous agency heads on their operational status following the cyberincident.  “It’s not catastrophic,” Underwood said, before ultimately concluding that it was “a significant event, much more significant than any we’ve had in the past." He also called it a "sophisticated, coordinated attack," and not the result of "some malcontent teenager in their parent's basement." Underwood reiterated that the reason state websites had been down across the board was because of the state's deliberate decision to isolate itself, to prevent the spread of the infection.

Media and City Council members should not be exempt from public record requests fees, Ann Arbor’s city administrator told the council in a November letter. The letter comes after a request from a council member through a debate at City Council on whether elected officials should receive a fee waiver for Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests. In August, Council Member Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, sought records of all of Mayor Christopher Taylor’s emails on both his city email account and any private accounts used for city business. Hayner received a $217 fee request.