Transparency News 11/5/13

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
State and Local Stories


The Records Analysis Section of the Library of Virginia is very pleased to announce a new feature on our web site. In an effort to make accessing state agency Specific Schedules simpler, we have scanned all active schedules in our files and placed them at Select your agency from the drop down menu and click Submit. You’ll find a complete list of schedules with department and sub-department information (when applicable) as well as the schedule’s approval date. Clicking the schedule number will open that schedule as a PDF. With this update, records officers no longer need to use Infolinx to find agency schedules. For this reason, we will disable access to the system for records officers who are not State Records Center (SRC) customers in early December. You will continue to have access to the system only if you use Infolinx to enter boxes for storage at the SRC.
Library of Virginia
And a note from VCOG: Retention schedules are a great resource for anyone contemplating a FOIA request for an agency. Looking at the schedules can give you an idea of what kinds of records they have, but it also allows you to “speak their language” when asking. You can request the records in the vernacular of that particular agency.

A Newport News city call log shows no calls were made to the Hampton Sheriff's Office from the Newport News Sheriff's Office before a homicide suspect was accidentally released last month. The call log could end a back and forth dispute between both offices on the phone call issue. The log from Cox Communications shows one outgoing phone call from the Newport News Sheriff's Office on Oct. 9 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., on a phone number that the city asked Cox to check on. There were no calls made to Hampton on that phone number during that time frame, the log shows. The one call was made to a number with an 804 area code. The call log was provided by the city on Monday after an Oct. 21 Freedom of Information request from the Daily Press. Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan, who said several times that a deputy called Hampton before the release, declined to comment about the finding to the Daily Press, instead directing his spokeswoman to respond.
Daily Press

The Richmond school system is spending more than $30 million a year on health care benefits even though it doesn’t have a signed contract with its service provider, according to an audit released Monday. The school system also spends $2 million or more a year on benefits it could curtail or outright cut, according to the 58-page report from Richmond city auditor Umesh Dalal.

Some Virginia Military Institute computers sold at surplus auctions last month contained hard drives that were not wiped clean, in violation of procedure. About 50 of the 369 computers sold during auctions on Oct. 5 and 26 could contain sensitive information, though spokesman Stewart MacInnis said VMI is fairly certain records considered protected information are not on any of the computers. “Privacy type of information on employees and our cadets is supposed to be maintained only on servers. It shouldn’t be downloaded or on any computer,” MacInnis said. However, there could be sensitive information.
Roanoke Times

National Stories

A lingering mystery in the August 2011 helicopter crash that killed 30 U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan is why some bodies were cremated and some were not. Larry Klayman, who runs the nonprofit watchdog group Freedom Watch, has sued the Defense Department under the Freedom of Information Act to force disclosure of details about the downing of the Chinook helicopter by a Taliban-fired rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan’s Tangi Valley.
Washington Times

A group of illuminated signs that have popped up near D.C. Superior Court touting the rights of jury members to “nullify” a law they disagree with has sparked a debate over whether the sign is an expression of free speech or an improper attempt to tamper with the legal system. The Montana-based Fully Informed Jury Association funded the signs, which read: “Good jurors nullify bad laws” and “You have the right to ‘hang’ the jury with your vote if you cannot agree with other jurors.” The signs are strategically placed so prospective jurors arriving at the city’s downtown Judiciary Square and Archives Metro stops pass right by them as they report for duty, and that has prosecutors and judges worried about their possible impact on jury deliberations.
Washington Times

Overall spending on federal lobbying is at its lowest level since at least 2010, with a third consecutive quarter of declining government advocacy expenses, according to a new Center for Responsive Politics analysis. Organizations spent about $760 million during the third quarter of 2013 (July 1 to September 30). The sum is an almost $40 million decrease from the second quarter of 2013 and nearly $200 million less than the total for the first quarter of 2010. The $956.2 million tally for the first quarter of 2010 is the highest quarterly figure analyzed by the nonprofit organization, which studies the effect of money on the U.S. government.
Blog of LegalTimes

A South Carolina police chief has come under fire after he suggested that a man who took to Facebook to criticize the department's law enforcement tactics might be a criminal. "Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal," interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago in Columbia, South Carolina posted in response to a man who had complained that police should concentrate on violent offenders instead of arresting marijuana users. "We will work on finding you," Santiago added.

Despite a California law requiring assisted-care facility licensing reports to be easily viewable to the public, access to important background information on the facilities can be difficult to find, a newspaper reported Sunday. Records detailing elder care home evaluations were locked behind a security checkpoint at a state Department of Social Services regional office in Oakland, and access to case files were denied over concerns about confidentiality, the Contra Costa Times reported.
Sacramento Bee

News organizations asked a Massachusetts judge Monday to lift an order barring public viewing of documents in the case of a 14-year-old boy charged with killing his math teacher. Lawyers for the Associated Press, The Boston Globe and other news outlets argued in Salem District Court that a search warrant affidavit and related documents should be made public in the case of Philip Chism, who has been charged with the Oct. 22 murder of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School.
USA Today

The attorneys for a man facing felony charges for texting a picture of his tattooed penis to a woman told the Georgia Supreme Court the law he is said to have broken violates his free speech rights. The lawyers argued that the statute, which prohibits sending unsolicited material containing nudity or sexual conduct without including a written warning, is unconstitutional as written and cannot apply to a text message anyway.
Daily Report


Los Angeles Times: Ideally, the court would go even further and recognize that, in an America in which an increasing number of citizens identify with no religion, even nonsectarian, lowest-common-denominator prayers can exclude and marginalize nonbelievers. Obviously a Jew who goes to a town meeting to petition for a permit will be made uncomfortable when he is urged to join in a prayer to "our Lord Jesus." But an atheist in the same position will be equally offended by a request that he join in a prayer to a generic God. However the court rules, local governments in California and elsewhereshould act on their own to ensure that no citizen seeking to take part in the democratic process should be made to feel like an outsider. "Let us pray" is a perfectly appropriate exhortation in a church, synagogue or mosque. It shouldn't be part of the official business of government.