Transparency News 12/5/18



December 5, 2018


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state & local news stories




"Experts on local government say it’s difficult to compare county administrator salaries across localities as there’s no specific metric used to calculate compensation."

There is a question of whether the New College Institute board strayed outside the spirit of state open meetings laws following a closed session Monday. The board, after holding a closed session, reconvened in what was supposed to be an open meeting, as required by state law. But a Martinsville Bulletin reporter waiting in the adjoining hallway, roughly 10 feet away from a main door to the meeting room for the state-funded educational entity, never saw it open. By the time someone told the Bulletin reporter that the meeting was back in open and the reporter walked in the meeting room, the board had already taken the legally required open-session vote to certify that what was discussed behind closed doors was legal. When the reporter walked in, board Chairman Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, was about to adjourn the entire meeting, according to the reporter’s recollection.
Martinsville Bulletin

Robert Gravely, the man who threatened to have Roanoke City Council members shot during Monday’s meeting, was charged with disorderly conduct Tuesday and city leaders are moving to bar him from city hall. It’s the second time Gravely, a former city employee, has threatened council, and he was charged for it the first time 12 years ago. Mayor Sherman Lea and other council members now favor adding a permanent police presence during meetings, perhaps as soon as the next meeting Dec. 17. City Attorney Dan Callaghan said he and his staff are researching what scope and duration of Gravely’s ban from the building is allowed, but the criminal charge against Gravely allows the city to bar him.While the First Amendment protects the right to criticize government, he said,”you don’t have a right to be disorderly.”
The Roanoke Times

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors’ move to increase the county administrator’s salary with his contract renewal follows a national trend of rising compensation for chief administrative officers for localities. Nationwide salary surveys conducted annually by the International City/County Management Association exhibit a steady upward trajectory from 2011 to 2017, with the median salary growing by about $34,000 in that time — about a 33.6-percent increase. Experts on local government say it’s difficult to compare county administrator salaries across localities as there’s no specific metric used to calculate compensation, such as population size, land mass or length of tenure.
Register & Bee

After announcing in July “bold new” logos, the College of William and Mary has spent nearly $20,000 to update or replace everything from name tags to stencils. That move comes at a cost: $19,423.30. That’s the amount the athletics department spent in addition to already-budgeted equipment replacements, according to College of William and Mary spokeswoman Suzanne Seurattan.  According to information the Virginia Gazette received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the athletics department’s biggest purchase so far: new signage at $6,332.75.
Virginia Gazette


stories of national interest

Do you have research in freedom of information (FOI) that will make a difference? Then submit your proposal to the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s first research paper competition for presentation at the national FOI summit April 12-13, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The top-three papers will earn cash prizes and the best paper will be guaranteed publication in the new online Journal of Civic Information, to be launched spring 2019 by the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information.

Dan Kass, 28, is part of a new crop of hackers building easy-to-use, data-driven tools to empower tenants and take on notoriously bad landlords. The goal behind this wave of what coders call “civic technology” is to create low cost solutions to some of New York City’s most pressing civic problems, like affordable housing. Examples include an app called Heatseek, created by students at a coding academy, that allows tenants to record and report the temperature in their homes to ensure that landlords don’t skimp on the heat. There’s also the Displacement Alert Project, built by a coalition of affordable housing groups, that maps out buildings and neighborhoods at risk of displacement.  Who Owns What aims to change that by pulling information from disparate government databases and identifying patterns, like a shared business address among the L.L.C.s — laborious work that would typically take hours of combing through city finance and housing records.
The New York Times