Transparency News 11/30/18



November 30, 2018


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state & local news stories




“Frankly, I don’t think it speaks very well of our relationship with the EDA that they don’t trust us to abide by our own closed session.”

Metro was willing to work with the organizer of a white supremacist rally in Washington this summer to provide special accommodations for his group, according to emails obtained from the transit agency through a public records request. Metro released the emails following an expedited public records request submitted Aug. 6 seeking correspondence between Kessler, other rally organizers and Metro officials. Metro responded Aug. 17, denying the request, arguing the records' release "would jeopardize the security of [Metro] operations and the safety of [Metro] customers and employees because it would reveal [Metro's] operational considerations and security plans that are undertaken for such events. Such records would disclose [Metro's] deliberative process and reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures, increasing the likelihood of circumvention of the law." The Post partially appealed the denial the same month, arguing emails between Metro and rally organizers would not necessarily reveal the agency's plans - which were moot, in any case - because the rally had already taken place. "The public has a right to see what, if any, accommodations were pledged to organizers of the Unite the Right group," the Post's appeal said. "It also has a right to see the full extent of the accommodations the group was requesting from the agency." On Nov. 8, an appeal panel reversed Metro's original decision and pledged to review the records for release "in an effort to promote transparency." The emails were released Thursday.
The Washington Post

Terry Kelley resigned from the Augusta County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 21, according to his resignation letter obtained by the News Leader through a Freedom of Information Act request. When the board announced Kelley's resignation Monday evening via press release, it offered no explanation for his departure. Instead, the board wished Kelley success in his future endeavors.  Here's what we know now. Kelley sent the resignation email to county administrator Timothy Fitzgerald. It also offered no explanation for his departure from the board. The News Leader is in the process of reviewing public records, including 374 emails that Kelley sent and received during his last month as supervisor.
News Leader

Two members of the Front Royal Town Council walked out of a closed session last week after they refused a request to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Councilman John Connolly and Jacob Meza both left a Nov. 9 closed session during which a potential incoming business was discussed with Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority officials. EDA representatives in the closed session were Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, Chairman Gray Blanton and board member Ron Llewellyn. Connolly said over the phone Wednesday that “the very first thing that they did” was tell councilmen to sign non-disclosure forms. “Frankly, I don’t think it speaks very well of our relationship with the EDA that they don’t trust us to abide by our own closed session,” he said. McDonald said over the phone that the business requested that the EDA get the forms signed. She said it says nothing about the town-EDA relationship because it was not the EDA making the request. She added that non-disclosure agreements are “nothing out of the ordinary” and she signs one with every potential incoming business.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

Ballad Health canceled a Friday meeting after some Sullivan County, Tennessee, leaders declined the invitation over concerns about complying with the state’s open meetings law. The regional health care provider issued a statement Thursday outlining its decision to cancel the meeting with members of the Sullivan County Commission, which was scheduled this morning at Bristol Regional Medical Center. The commission previously expressed concern about some steps Ballad is taking as part of plans to reorganize trauma and perinatal care in the region. On Wednesday, County Attorney Dan Street opined that attending the meeting would not violate the state’s Sunshine Law but said commissioners couldn’t engage in any deliberations among themselves, or that would be a violation. As a result, some commissioners notified Ballad they would not attend.
Bristol Herald Courier

At workplaces across the United States, it is routine for Americans’ conversations to turn to President Trump — whether his policies are good, whether he should be impeached, what to think about the “resistance.” Some drink from MAGA mugs; others tape cartoons to their cubicle walls portraying Mr. Trump as a Russian quisling.  But roughly two million people who work for the federal government have now been told that it may be illegal for them to participate in such discussions at work — a pronouncement that legal specialists say breaks new ground, and that some criticized as going too far. Generally, federal employees have been free to express opinions about policies and legislative activity at work as long as they do not advocate voting for or against particular candidates in partisan elections. But in a guidance document distributed on Wednesday, the independent agency that enforces the Hatch Act, a law that bars federal employees from taking part in partisan political campaigns at work or in an official capacity, warned that making or displaying statements at work about impeaching or resisting Mr. Trump is likely to amount to illegal political activity.
The New York Times

Documents provided to AllOnGeorgia on Wednesday by a third party indicate that Evans County Board of Education emails requested in a June Open Records Request are no longer on the server. AllOnGeorgia filed an Open Records Request in late June seeking the personnel file of former employee Sharon Threatte, documentation on employee salaries at the district office, and emails related to the pay of Sharon Threatte and the pay classification of district office employees. But the documents provided Wednesday show that an Atlanta-based attorney who filed an Open Records Request with the Evans County Board of Education cannot file a similar for the documents and emails because the emails no longer exist. The Board of Education has implemented a new email server retention policy that only hosts emails for 180 days. The emails requested by AllOnGeorgia included a date range beginning January 1 and running through June 27, 2018. Emails currently on the server only date back to May 2018. The attorney has said he plans to follow up with the Evans County Board of Education to ensure that no emails outside of the 180 day window are deleted in the event of litigation.





editorials & columns


Nov. 30, 1886 saw the first edition of The Roanoke Daily Times. Today, 132 years later, you are reading the successor to Claytor’s enterprise. Each year on this date we take a break from our usual commentary on the issues of the day to reflect on our history. If M.H. Claytor, who passed away in 1931 at age 77, were to return among us, he would be amazed by many things. He’d likely be astounded at the size of the news staff. In his day, “one reporter was regarded as amply sufficient.” Today, we have a news staff of 72, making The Roanoke Times the largest news organization in Virginia west of Richmond. And, of course, he’d likely be shocked to find the nation governed by a president who routinely condemns journalists as “the enemy of the people.” 
The Roanoke Times