Transparency News 1/30/19



January 30, 2019


Follow the bills that VCOG follows on our annual legislative bill chart.


state & local news stories




A Senate committee reported a bill to require localities and schools to post checkbook/credit card spending data online. The vote was 9-4.

Yesterday was another day chock full of bills being heard by House and Senate committees and subcommittees as the lawmakers gallop towards cross-over. Highlights (and lowlights) for VCOG included:

  • A House subcommittee advanced a bill to require the Library of Virginia to make a governor's records available a year after receiving them. The bill has to go to the House Appropriations Committee now.
  • The same subcommittee defeated a proposal to create an ombudsman and mediator in the AG's office to resolve FOIA disputes over state agency records access.
  • A Senate committee reported a bill to require localities and schools to post checkbook/credit card spending data online. The vote was 9-4.
  • But, this morning, at 7:30 a.m., a House subcommittee defeated a similar bill on a 7-1 vote, so the Senate bill may meet a similar fate.

We're tracking over 20 bills today, including many of the bills that passed their substantive committee but now have to the money committees for each chamber.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Across Virginia, all elected officials are mandated to annually submit disclosure statements detailing their economic interests, from debt, to stocks and bonds, to employment and more. The forms are designed to show the public where elected officials’ money is going and coming from — and also highlight where there may be conflicts of interest under the Conflict of Interest Act. When a mistake is made, who is there to catch it?
WY Daily

In the slow-motion legal churn of a defamation lawsuit against Del. Cheryl Turpin, definitions are everything. Scott Presler is accusing Turpin of knowingly running false campaign ads that featured Presler during Turpin’s 2017 campaign against then-Del. Rocky Holcomb. Presler claimed the ads painted him as a racist and “leader of a local hate group,” which damaged his professional reputation. Although Holcomb is not a party in the lawsuit, he is mentioned throughout the 37-page filing. Turpin’s lattorney filed a demurrer in September 2018, which questioned the sufficiency of Presler’s complaint and insisted Presler met the definition of a “public figure.”  Presler’s attorney, Rhiannon Jordan, disagrees.
Southside Daily

A judge has decided a jury's $775,000 defamation verdict against Portsmouth Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas was excessive and should be slashed by more than 80 percent. The jury ruled in November that Psimas defamed then-city auditor Jesse Andre Thomas in a television interview not long before the council fired him in 2016.
The Virginian-Pilot

A Virginia criminal justice update many years in the making and mandated by the state Supreme Court will be delayed, with lawmakers citing police body cameras as part of the reason. Planned to go into effect in July but now set for 2020, the new rules require prosecutors to turn over police reports, witness statements and witness lists to defendants facing criminal charges. That way, defendants have time to fully examine and challenge the evidence. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who revealed the delay during a hearing last week, said prosecutors approached him late last year and expressed concerns about putting the changes into practice. "It is far-reaching and is going to change really the way they do business in the context of redaction and the like," Jones said in an interview. "And so it could have really a deleterious impact on the operation of offices." Reviewing footage from police-worn body cameras is incredibly time-intensive, a problem law enforcement agencies across the country are facing. The cost of complying with the new transparency rules is less clear.
The News & Advance

With a weighty local election on tap this November and more than a dozen local offices up for grabs, local candidates for political office are invited to attend a free training on Monday explaining campaign finance reporting requirements. The Culpeper County Voter Registration Election Office is hosting the class, which will take place 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the conference room at the Culpeper Library, for candidates from Culpeper and all neighboring localities. A representative from the Virginia Department of Elections will be on site to introduce candidates to the Committee Electronic Tracking System, or COMET, and to answer any questions. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own laptops to follow along though computers will also be available on site.
Culpeper Star-Exponent


editorials & columns



Let’s connect the dots.

The anti-Moss ads were produced for PACs connected to two groups: The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Beach Education Association. Notice anything curious about these donations, other than that they were all made on the same day? Yep, they were all just a few bucks shy of $10,000. Interesting. And whaddya know. Virginia law demands that “large dollar contributions” - those of $10,000 or more - must be reported within three days. Let’s connect the dots. By keeping their donations just under the 10 grand level, the names of these fat-cat donors were shielded until December 31 - long after the Nov. 6 election was in the rearview. In fact, the HRBizPAC as it calls itself, received $79,845 on a single day: Oct 12 . Very helpful. Because three days later the PAC stroked its first check to D.I.A. Inc, the company that produced the ads. The initial payment was $78,300. It gets better. 
Kerry Dougherty: Unemployed & Unedited