Transparency News, 1/26/2022

January 26, 2022

There was no newsletter yesterday, Jan. 25, 2022


state & local news stories


VCOG's annual
bill chart


John Kownack, the retired executive director of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the former head of the subsidiary Hampton Roads Ventures says he was not paid by both entities while working two jobs, showing his tax returns as proof. Kownack worked at NRHA from the time Hampton Roads Ventures began and he headed the subsidiary after its founder Robert Jenkins left in 2011 and remained an executive until leaving in November. In about 2012 or 2013, turnover in the HRV office meant HRV didn’t have the staff to handle its work. So the company was run out of the housing authority’s Housing Reinvention office by NRHA employees, he said. In a denial of a Freedom of Information Act request for HRV’s records, Delphine G. Carnes, the lawyer for NRHA and HRV, told the Mercury no public funds were provided to HRV. She was bolstering her argument by noting that NRHA was compensated for the work of its employees, not saying they were paid separately, Kownack said. Kownack also solved a mystery that the housing authority refused to explain — the management fees memo.
Virginia Mercury

Loudoun County supervisors will oppose bills filed by Del. David A. Reid (D-32) and Sen. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-33) seeking to relieve the Dulles Greenway of new regulation passed last year, instead allowing the state Commissioner of Highways to negotiate a new deal on tolls with the highway owners unilaterally. While Reid and Boysko have said the new bill would lead to distance-based tolling and a reduction in tolls, that is not required in the language of the bill. The bill does add new passages from last year’s version further shielding information about the Greenway’s finances from public disclosure, not only ordering the state and local officials permitted to be present at negotiations to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but also creating a new Freedom of Information Act exemption specifically for that information.
Loudoun Now
The bills are on VCOG's bill list and our position paper on them is here

Following a state investigation that found the Virginia Beach police have used fake documents to obtain confessions from suspects, one local legislator is proposing legislation that would ban officers from using this tactic. Del. Jackie Glass (D-Norfolk) has introduced a bill that would prohibit the use of fake replica documents during interrogations. The bill defines such documents as any that contain a false statement, signature, seal, letterhead, or contact information, or materially misrepresents any fact.
The Virginian-Pilot

Another debate related to the pandemic got out of control in Virginia, as someone yelled threats at a state lawmaker during a Virginia Senate committee meeting. After the Senate Education and Health Committee last week voted to reject a bill that would have protected doctors who prescribe certain unapproved drugs for COVID-19, a woman shouted at Sen. L. Louise Lucas, who chairs the committee, saying, “You will pay for this one day!”

Front Royal Town Council members tried and failed Monday to meet behind closed doors for an undisclosed reason. Councilman Gary L. Gillispie made a motion to add a closed session to the meeting agenda. Vice Mayor Lori A. Cockrell, Gillispie and council members E. Scott Lloyd, Joseph E. McFadden and Amber F. Morris voted in favor of the motion. Councilwoman Letasha T. Thompson voted against the motion. Mayor Christopher W. Holloway, also in attendance, votes only to break a tie. A change to the meeting agenda requires a unanimous vote by council. Gillispie did not provide a reason for meeting in closed session, nor did he cite an exemption from open meeting requirements as allowed under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Public bodies must cite sections in the law for each topic they want to discuss in closed session. The law allows but does not always require members of the body to discuss certain matters in closed session.
The Northern Virginia Daily

Prince William County officials are trying to handle the hundreds of residents who want to speak at Thursday’s listening session on the proposed PW Digital Gateway. Several people were told on Monday that they were waitlisted for a position to speak in person at Thursday’s meeting. The county is holding Thursday’s listening session for input on the PW Digital Gateway – a proposal to potentially pave the way for more than 27.6 million square feet of data centers along Pageland Lane, or nearly as much data center space as is currently in use or under construction in neighboring Loudoun County, the world’s largest concentration of such facilities.
Inside NoVa

stories of national interest

A few weeks ago, the Iowa Senate made a surprising move — it decided to ban reporters from the Senate floor. The stated reason was that there were so many bloggers and other nontraditional journalists roaming the chamber that it was hard for the leadership to figure out who was legitimate and who wasn’t. There was immediate criticism from news organizations that had long enjoyed free chamber access. The Iowa Freedom of Information Council complained that “it makes it that much harder for the public to know what’s going on.” The Iowa Capitol Press Association called the move “discouraging and unprovoked.” Iowa isn’t the first state legislature in recent years that has shooed the press out of its territory. In 2016, journalists were denied access to the Arizona House floor. It was explained as a security move, but reporters noted that the House speaker, who instituted the new policy, had been the target of some recent stinging press coverage. The decision was reversed shortly afterward. That same year, the president pro tem of the Missouri Senate made a similar decision. His reason was that reporters had published the contents of private conversations they happened to hear while standing on the Senate floor. That was eventually modified as well. Currently, in a majority of states, reporters can enter the chamber floor but have to sit at a designated press table or in a “press box.” They can’t just wander around and buttonhole the members.


editorials & columns


Page County resident Amelia King strongly supported Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order ending student mask mandates in schools. She supported it so strongly that she threatened to “bring every single gun loaded” to her child’s school to enforce the order. Brayan Jafet Galeas Oliva was so upset about something in his life—not the mask mandate—that he allegedly threatened to kill or hurt people at Albemarle County High School earlier this month. Authorities in Page and Albemarle charged King and Oliva with crimes last week as a result of their statements. King’s and Oliva’s behavior was the latest reminder of how Americans now rely on intimidation and rage rather than reason to settle differences. The charges also highlighted how our national epidemic of potentially violent anger leaves students, faculty and staff in the crosshairs.
The Daily Progress