Transparency News 1/31/20


January 31, 2020

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state & local news stories



Traffic cameras are used by the media to inform the public about incidents on the road — from crashes to road closures — in traffic and news reports. Arlington County has one of the region’s more accessible traffic camera networks, with some 180 camera feeds available on the county’s website since 2015. But the openness has been curtailed. A few months ago, Arlington County implemented a new policy that proactively shuts off the feeds of traffic cameras that are in view of incidents from minor crashes to major news stories. Other times, cameras are deliberately pointed away from such incidents. The change in policy is in the interest of privacy, county officials said. ARLnow filed a Freedom of Information Act request to view emails related to the camera decision. After being told that it would likely cost around $1,000 to gather the documents, we cancelled the request.

A Hopewell Circuit Court judge this month dismissed a lawsuit the city's former general registrar brought against the electoral board that fired her last year. Yolanda Stokes, who drew scrutiny for a plan to print 2018 local election ballots that state officials said were unfair, sued about a week after the three-member Hopewell Electoral Board unanimously voted last March to oust Stokes from the registrar's job, which she had held for less than a year. Stokes, who represented herself in court, also sued the City of Hopewell, the state board of elections and Department of Elections commissioner as defendants, arguing that city and state officials were also responsible for the actions of the local electoral board which she said had wrongly removed her. "This court will not replace the discretion and judgement exercised by the Hopewell Electoral Board and its members with its own judgement, as the members are granted the discretion to remove a general registrar under (state law)," Circuit Court Judge W. Edward Tomko III wrote in his decision.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Two former Lynchburg police officers violated multiple department policies when they mistakenly shot an unarmed man in his home nearly two years ago, an internal police department investigation has found. But in a news conference announcing the findings at City Hall on Thursday, Chief Ryan Zuidema declined to identify the specific policies officers Edward Ferron, 42, and Savannah Simmons, 23, disobeyed when they shot Walker Sigler at his home on Link Road in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2018. “These are personnel matters involving our officers and former officers in this case,” Zuidema said. “And they have a certain right under the law to certain things not being released.”
The News & Advance

Mr. Honeycutt addressed the Mecklenburg County School Board Norms, which is basically a code of conduct for School Board members. Gloria Smith talked about a discussion that members had a recent meeting about things that would help in the future. “We talked about the ethical code of conduct for board members, how we would place items on the agenda, how to respond to staff or community complaints at board meetings. We talked our relationship with a board and our relationship with the school system. We’re working to be an improved board that works together to benefit our school system. The communication is very important, especially in this day and time.” Mr. Ricky Allgood added that he would like to know that he can disagree with a fellow board member and still maintain a friendship outside of their duties. He also pointed out that he feels that communication between the board members has not always been productive and that he would like to see that improved. 
South Hill Enterprise

A letter by Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle says a group formed by a member of the School Board may have violated the law by failing to register with state election officials or disclose contributions and spending used to persuade city voters to back several local politicians this past year. Stolle’s comments about the Virginia Beach Teachers’ Association, which in November made a series of endorsements in local and General Assembly races, came on Wednesday, Jan. 15, in a letter to Virginia Elections Commissioner Chris Piper.
The Princess Anne Independent News

stories of national interest

In most cases, only lawyers, prosecutors and reporters have been allowed to carry cellphones into Michigan courthouses. But that will soon change. Come May 1, the general public will be allowed to take their iPhones, Androids and other handheld electronic devices into court buildings and inside courtrooms, the Michigan Supreme announced this month, amending a rule that allowed courts to set their own policies on whether to allow them. Timothy Kenny, chief judge of Wayne County Circuit Court, applauded the ruling, noting that for many people, the cellphone is their only means of communication. “The court is supportive of (the rule),” Kenny said. “There will be instances where restrictions are needed to maintain security and prevent proceedings from being disrupted — especially in criminal cases, where you don’t want individuals taking photographs of jurors. We’ll meet with court administration and judges to decide how to craft our policy going forward, consistent with the Supreme Court order.”