Transparency News, 1/24/2022


January 24, 2022

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The Virginia Department of Corrections in 2018 closed an investigation into an incident in which an investigator believed a prison supervisor choked a restrained inmate, taking no disciplinary action. But after the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently obtained a video of the incident, the director said he would refer the case to a local prosecutor for review. Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke said through a spokesman that he had concerns about video footage showing what a former prison investigator concluded was a supervisor choking a prisoner who was tied down by his arms, legs and chest. But Clarke wouldn't acknowledge that the video shows the supervisor's hand on the inmate's neck. The Richmond Times-Dispatch sent the video footage to the Department of Corrections after obtaining it from Brian Mitchell, a former investigator at Keen Mountain Correctional Center in Buchanan County who lives in Tazewell County.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A video of a public comment at a Page County School Board meeting where a parent said she "will bring every single gun loaded and ready" if her children have to wear masks in school led to charges for the woman and an increased police presence at the division's schools Friday and Monday. Page County School Board held the meeting Thursday to discuss Gov. Glenn Youngkin's executive order, giving parents a choice for their children to wear masks at school. The woman later emailed the school board apologizing for her actions, which was read during the meeting by school board member Amy Painter. "I in no way meant to imply 'all guns loaded' as in actual firearms, but rather all resources I can muster to make sure that my children get to attend school without masks. My sincere apologies for my poor choice in words," King said in her statement, read by Painter.
Daily News Record

stories of national interest

In a landmark ruling that will increase government transparency in Indiana, the state’s Supreme Court held last week that agencies must provide specific facts explaining why a public employee is suspended, fired or otherwise disciplined. The unanimous Supreme Court decision means that school districts, police departments and other public agencies across the state can no longer get away with making vague assertions when responding to records requests about an employee whose misconduct resulted in punishment. Instead, Indiana’s highest court concluded, government officials “must provide some facts about the employee’s actions.” The ruling is the culmination of a three-and-a-half-year legal battle Reporters Committee attorneys successfully waged on behalf of Indiana’s WTHR-TV, which sued a local school district for information about the suspension of a high school teacher and football coach.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

As her political career unfurled on the national scene in 2008, Sarah Palin, then the governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for vice president, frequently criticized what she called the "lamestream media," saying it was unfair to her and took pains to cast her in the worst possible light. Starting Monday in Manhattan, Palin will get her day in court against one of the most august titles in American journalism: The New York Times. The case pits First Amendment protections for robust free speech against the right of someone not to be defamed, i.e. not to have damaging and untrue claims made publicly against her, even if she's a prominent public figure. It is also likely to shine an unwanted light into the behavior of the nation's leading newspaper when it's under deadline pressure. There is no argument or ambiguity here about the facts: What the Times originally published was wrong.

Conservative members of a federal civil rights commission pushed Friday for changes to how the agency operates that would greatly limit its dissemination of information on historic and current civil rights issues. The proposed amendments by Commissioner Stephen Gilchrist, a Republican appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2020, were to change the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' strategic plan so that any public information – on social media or elsewhere – would first need to receive a majority vote from its members. The suggestion was met with vehement pushback from Commissioner Michael Yaki, a Democrat, who argued that "the history of civil rights in this country are not subject to majority rule," citing examples of historical events such as the Montgomery bus boycott, Rosa Parks, or the March on Washington. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' overall goals are to "keep the public apprised of historic and current civil rights issues," including routinely posting to social media. But at least one instigating cause of concern were problematic tweets, said Commissioner Gail Heriot, an Independent, who seconded the motion. She did not provide any examples of those tweets at the commission's monthly meeting Friday.
USA Today

Leaders of Pennsylvania’s beleaguered teachers’ pension fund are requesting that board members sign oaths of secrecy before receiving a critical update on the botched investment calculation scandal that has led to multiple federal investigations. On Thursday morning, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System board told members in an email that they must sign a yet-to-be-drafted non-disclosure agreement to participate in a closed-door meeting later this month.