Transparency News 1/15/20



January 15, 2020

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state & local news stories



Virginia Democrats are on their way to making it easier to vote in elections. The Senate panel supported a few other campaign finance and voting bills, including SB 217 from Sen. David Suetterlein, which would require lawmakers and those holding statewide office to report contributions over $1,000 received during a period beginning Jan. 1 and ending the day before the first day of the regular session of the General Assembly. Howell worried lawmakers already have their plates full with work they need to accomplish before the start of session, and this only adds to the load. Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, said it’s important for the public to be aware of if donors are trying to buy lawmakers’ votes. The committee also backed Suetterlein’s SB 57 that would extend electronic campaign finance reporting to all boards of supervisors, city council and local constitutional offices in the commonwealth.
The Roanoke Times

As Leesburg grows, town government must balance the limits of current infrastructure with the opportunity to gain revenue. This came to the forefront Monday night when Leesburg Town Council refused to hold a closed session about threatened litigation from the owners of Graydon Manor, a proposed brewery, winery and co-housing development outside town that wants additional sewer service from Leesburg. The motion to hold a closed session died after council’s vote evenly split. Mayor Kelly Burk, Councilman Neil Steinberg and Councilman Ron Campbell voted to go into closed session to discuss the town’s response, while Councilman Josh Thiel, Councilman Tom Dunn and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox opposed. Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez was absent for the vote. When it came time for the vote for a closed hearing, Councilman Dunn suggested that in lieu of a private meeting, staff arrange an additional work session to discuss the town’s sewer policy and give the developer time to submit an official application.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Former Front Royal Sheriff Daniel McEathron’s phone and computer records have been subpoenaed by lawyers representing the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority in the EDA’s $21.3 million civil lawsuit that alleges rampant theft and questionable dealings. McEathron, who was sheriff for 16 years, was a defendant in the lawsuit as the EDA accused him and the authority’s former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald of using nearly $3 million of stolen money to make personal land purchases. About a week before the EDA filed its lawsuit, McEathron announced that he would retire May 1, seven months before his term’s expiration. McEathron committed suicide May 28, four days after McDonald was arrested on felony counts related to alleged financial improprieties during her tenure at the EDA. The subpoena, which was recently filed in Warren County Circuit Court, requests “the cell phone and complete cellular telephone records for Daniel McEathron, including but not limited to e-mails, text messages, and records of incoming and outgoing calls including but not limited to communications related to any of the Defendants of the Warren EDA.”
The Northern Virginia Daily

Front Royal could spend $245,000 in legal fees and auditing services for its $15 million civil lawsuit against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority. The Town Council at its Monday meeting approved an $11.1 million budget amendment to carry forward outstanding purchase orders that “need to be carried the budget to complete unfinished projects.” One of the myriad line items carried forward to this year’s budget included $90,000 for the town’s lawsuit against the EDA.
The Northern Virginia Daily

stories of national interest

 The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature has again denied press access to a liberal journalist whose blog is often critical of its policies, despite warnings from state and national groups that the restriction appears to be unconstitutional. The Iowa House and the Iowa Senate informed Laura Belin, who operates the Bleeding Heartland blog, that her applications for access during the session that began Monday were rejected. Iowa House chief clerk Meghan Nelson told Belin that the chamber "does not credential outlets that are nontraditional/independent in nature," even though its policy does not say that. Iowa Senate chief clerk Charlie Smithson said his body determined Belin is not a "member of the media" but did not elaborate.
Minneapolis Star Tribune