Transparency News, 11/30/2022


November 30, 2022

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state & local news stories


VCOG is seeking nominations for its open government awards for citizens, press and government.
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The state Office of the Attorney General withheld records requested by the Virginia chapter of the NAACP related to the newly formed election integrity unit. State NAACP President Robert Barnette Jr. released documents Tuesday obtained through a public-records request and said the organization wanted to learn more about the election integrity unit. He claimed the organization received no records from the AG’s office relating to the unit’s staffing, supervision, the approval process for investigations and its procedures, among other topics.   The AG’s office withheld about 280 records related to the request, citing a range of exemptions including ongoing investigations, personally identifying information, as well as a working papers exemption. VCOG's Megan Rhyne said the NAACP’s request was an example of what happens to Virginians requesting public records from their government. “They are quoted prohibitively high fees for accessing that information, and then so often they are still not given the records they are interested in,” Rhyne said. 
This is the link to the AG's response
While the attorney general’s office said it’s investigated complaints, provided legal advice, and intervened in three specific legal issues related to the election, the Virginia NAACP is critical of the investigative unit’s scope of work. On Tuesday, the group said records it obtained from Attorney General Jason Miyares' Election Integrity Unit showed no credible reports of election fraud in the most recent election cycle, and no record of “election cheating” dating back to 2008. Miyares’ spokesperson Victoria LaCivita confirmed the unit received complaints but she declined to comment further on how many there were. She also declined to identify the jurisdictions where the complaints were made, or to describe the nature of the complaints, saying she “cannot comment on anything that may or may not be subject to investigation.”
The Virginian-Pilot

A Clarke County School Board member's motion to seek an independent probe into allegations of high school students being mistreated was rejected Monday night. Following a heated discussion, Chairwoman Monica Singh-Smith opted instead to consult with the board's legal counsel, Staunton law firm Timberlake Smith. Chuck Bishop, superintendent of the county's schools, talked with representatives from the firm on Wednesday. He said the firm will provide the chairwoman advice as to how the board should handle the allegations, as well as potential ramifications. Andrew MacDonald, the board's Russell District member who made the motion, expressed doubt that the firm can provide objective advice. Basically, "they're hired to protect us" from litigation, MacDonald said. "This is not about protecting us. This is about transparency for the community."
The Winchester Star

stories of national interest

"The church says it has unspecified obligations to a group of individuals who are named in the attorney general’s report [and] who have argued that their side should be heard before the report is made public."

Michigan’s education system got $6.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding to help school districts mitigate the pandemic’s impact on students. Now state officials want to charge journalists $10,620 for access to public records that contain detailed, updated information about how districts across the state plan to spend that money. 
Detroit Free Press

The Archdiocese of Baltimore confirmed Tuesday that it is helping pay the legal expenses of an anonymous group of people seeking to seal the proceedings around a report by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office on clergy sexual abuse of minors. Christian Kendzierski, an archdiocese spokesman, reiterated that the church is not seeking to suppress a 456-page report by the office of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. But, Kendzierski said, the church has unspecified obligations to a group of individuals who are named in the attorney general’s report but are not accused of sexual abuse and who have argued that their side should be heard before the report is made public.
The Washington Post