Transparency News, 12/7/2022


December 7, 2022

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state & local news stories


VCOG is seeking nominations for its open government awards for citizens, press and government.
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Environmental nonprofit Citizens for Fauquier County announced Monday that it plans to file a lawsuit against the town of Warrenton, claiming town officials illegally suppressed or redacted information requested by the organization through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the Amazon data center proposal. According to a news release, the suit will allege the town acted unlawfully by refusing to turn over thousands of emails – related to the tech company’s application for a special-use permit to build a data center on the corner of Blackwell Road and Lee Highway – between Mayor Carter Nevill, former town manager Brandie Schaeffer and Amazon representatives. The town claimed the emails, eight of which involved Nevill and 3,142 involved Schaeffer, were protected by “executive privilege.” The Town of Warrenton emailed a statement to FauquierNow Tuesday afternoon saying it "takes the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act very seriously."
Fauquier Now

Following a two-hour closed session to discuss the special grand jury's report on Loudoun County Public Schools administration's handling of two sexual assaults by the same student, the School Board voted unanimously and without public discussion Tuesday to fire Superintendent Scott Ziegler immediately and without cause. The School Board immediately adjourned following its vote, and refused comment outside the building after the meeting. Shortly before that vote, in a Board of Supervisors meeting happening at the same time, Loudoun County Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) had called on the School Board to fire Ziegler. While supervisors were making their comments from the dais, the School Board was discussing the report behind closed doors, as well as citing state law permitting a closed-door meeting for “discussion of the performance of specific public employees.” Ziegler did not attend the School Board’s meeting that night.
Loudoun Now

The Virginia police officer who “catfished” a 15-year-old California girl online and killed three of her family members was detained for psychiatric evaluation in 2016 after threatening to kill himself and his father and experiencing relationship troubles with his then-girlfriend, according to a police report obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The 2016 incident, which has not been previously reported, raises new questions about how Austin Lee Edwards, of North Chesterfield, became a law enforcement officer and offers new details about his life. Authorities in Virginia have said they were shocked by the California rampage and they knew of no red flags in Edwards’ background. Edwards never disclosed the 2016 incident to Virginia State Police, Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the agency, said in a statement. Geller declined to comment on the emergency custody order and the temporary detention order, saying the department was barred by law from discussing confidential records. Geller said the agency is conducting a review of Edwards’ hiring process.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

editorials & columns

"The FDTA is part of a larger trend already underway to modernize how governments at all levels collect, use and share data with the public."

Congress may soon pass the Financial Data Transparency Act (FDTA), which would require certain regulatory agencies to adopt data standards that would increase transparency and make financial information more easily accessible. In effect, the legislation would require data reported on behalf of municipal bond issuers to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board to be in a machine-readable format instead of the current PDF document format. The FDTA is part of a larger trend already underway to modernize how governments at all levels collect, use and share data with the public. We believe the long-term upsides of streamlined reporting and increased transparency far outweigh any short-term transition costs. Some groups associated with municipal governments and public finance are arguing that the FDTA would create an unfunded burden for them to change how they report financial data. They also object to standards being imposed from the top down without giving municipal stakeholders a seat at the table. We agree that local governments will need resources to implement the act and that they should be involved in designing the data standards. In fact, we’ve already gotten a significant head start in tackling these challenges.
Stephanie Leiser and Robert J.F. Widigan, Governing