Transparency News 1/31/19



January 31, 2019


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state & local news stories




"The [Arlington Wallet] tool also lets users create their own charts and download any of the raw data for themselves."

A Virginia court ruled Monday against Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s attempt to hide information from a Washington, D.C., think tank seeking information about the state’s role in an attorney general-led climate crusade. The Competitive Enterprise Institute sued Herring in 2018 for attempting to evade a Freedom of Information Act case seeking reasons why the Democratic attorney general denied requests for information confirming the state’s authority to hire privately funded lawyers.
The Daily Caller
Read the final order
Read the AG's motion to dismiss and demurrer
Read the plaintiff's response

With a budget well over $1 billion, Arlington’s checkbook can feel a bit overwhelming to the average taxpayer — but the county is launching a new resource to help change that. The county rolled out the first phase of “Arlington Wallet” yesterday (Tuesday), unveiling a new online tool to help Arlingtonians get a clearer look at how officials are spending money each year. The website, commonly known as an “open budget” database, will allow users to access budget data in graphs and charts, and drill down into each county department’s budget for a clearer look at Arlington’s expenses and revenues over the years. The tool also lets users create their own charts and download any of the raw data for themselves.

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority has appointed a task force to assist outside legal counsel with an ongoing investigation into an unidentified matter. The EDA at its Wednesday meeting appointed board member Edwin Daley to serve with Interim Executive Director John Anzivino on the task force that will act as a liaison to the Sands Anderson law firm. While the hire was revealed Dec. 21 when the county – on the EDA’s behalf – paid the consultant $90,000 for three months of work, the firm’s identity remains unrevealed.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

President Donald Trump’s administration possibly used the code name "mushroom" to hide information about Amtrak’s proposed Manhattan rail tunnel project, a lawsuit alleges. The Natural Resources Defense Council, in a federal court complaint, says it is asking whether Trump is deliberately delaying the Gateway project, which includes plans for a second rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River to Manhattan, a replacement for a malfunctioning swing bridge in New Jersey and other improvements. Though the U.S. Transportation Department’s decision on the tunnel portion was due in March, it has yet to be released. The New York City-based environmental group, which named the agency as the defendant, said transportation staffers hadn’t fulfilled its Freedom of Information Act request for related documents. “The request also sought records identifiable by search terms including shorthand names,” the complaint states. “One such believed code name, ‘mushroom,’ may have been adopted specifically to stymie FOIA requests.”




"One such believed code name, ‘mushroom,’ may have been adopted specifically to stymie FOIA requests."


editorials & columns



In a case of interest to auto industry companies, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted a petition for a writ of certiorari in a case that will result in the high court’s first opinion interpreting Exemption 4 to the federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”)—the exemption companies use most frequently to protect sensitive business information.  This case is of major interest to businesses, including those in the auto industry, because it could yield a blockbuster ruling easing the burden on businesses seeking to keep confidential their private information in the possession of the government.  This could include, for example, information pertaining to compliance with emissions and safety regulations, government bids, safety information regarding self-driving cars or trucks, or other auto company submissions to federal regulators.
National Law Review