Transparency News, 1/14/21


 January 14, 2021
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state & local news stories
New bills added yesterday to VCOG's bill chart include one to require release of completed police disciplinary investigation files and a resolution directing the FOIA Council to study ways in which FOIA's fee structure can be reformed (VCOG worked with Del. Mullin on this). Another bill VCOG participated on is one to adjust the rules for all-virtual meetings during an declared emergency.

Here's the video of the civic engagement presentation offered by the House of Delegates clerk's office. 
The passcode is 2021Virtual!

It shows you the best way to look up meetings, submit written comments or sign up to testify at the meeting. Generally speaking, here's the format the House will be following until, at least, the (currently unscheduled) crossover date.

Block 1, 7 am. to 9 a.m.: subcommittee meetings
Block 2, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.: full committee meetings
Block 3, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.: subcommittee meetings
Block 4, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.: full committee meetings
3 p.m. to 4 p.m. -- party caucus
4 p.m. -- House floor session
Block 5 -- ½ hour after floor session. This is the overflow block for sub/committees that didn't get their work done in their assigned blocks.

Follow our bill chart, and also follow our Facebook page, where we're posting snapshots of various bills with explanations of why VCOG supports or opposes them.
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Virginia Tech earned a failing grade as the result of a study of how transparent its governing board is to the public. A report released Wednesday by the nonprofit Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust analyzed 15 public universities in Virginia for the accessibility of information such as board meeting minutes, policies and bylaws, and contact information for board members. Five universities received an “F” grade, with the highest grade a B+, in an assessment that college presidents pushed back on in a letter to the nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The group, which has staff in Richmond and the Hampton Roads, largely advocates public policies to make college more affordable. Mark Owczarski, a Tech spokesman, said the university’s response to the audit is captured in a Nov. 20 letter from the Council of Presidents — which includes the leaders of the state’s public colleges — to Toscano. “We appreciate your dedication to transparency and accountability, and share it, but it is worth noting that the criteria employed in your organization’s assessment are not based on state law."
The Roanoke Times

With nearly a month left until the deadline, Grottoes Town Council will move forward with filling its vacancy. After the conclusion of Monday’s council meeting, interim Town Manager Joe Paxton said council is working toward setting up interviews with prospective candidates for the vacant council seat. “We received four applications,” Paxton said. Council concluded its meeting with a more than hourlong closed session to discuss “prospective candidates for appointment to public office of a public body” and “matters relating to the disposition of publicly owned property.”
Daily News Record

Harrisonburg Public Works employee Keith Thomas said he was in the right place at the right time. The way a useful tool for agricultural producers was set up meant it could only be accessed through U.S. Department of Agriculture offices — until Thomas stepped in. On his own time, Thomas used his proficiency in Excel and expanded upon the system, making it directly available to producers. The result is VA Graz — a modelling software that helps producers of grazing livestock to project different outcomes for different management practices.
Daily News Record