Transparency News, 1/3/20220


January 20, 2022

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state & local news stories


VCOG's annual
bill chart


I added six more positions papers on various legislation, bringing the total to 16 (plus 5 duplicates). Check them out:

A handful of Virginia House of Delegates members have already been given permission to legislate remotely, a privilege granted only to members isolating due to a COVID-19 exposure or diagnosis. Anyone hoping to find out exactly who is dealing with COVID-19 issues has to tune in to the beginning of each day’s floor session, when Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, announces which members are attending virtually.  On Tuesday, three out of 100 members had gone virtual. On Wednesday, the number grew to four, two Republicans and two Democrats. Garren Shipley, a spokesman for House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said there were no plans for the speaker’s office to disclose COVID-19 cases beyond Gilbert’s announcements on remote participation. Those announcements do not include specifics about whether a member has tested positive for the virus or is isolating as a precaution.
Virginia Mercury

Two months ago, Staunton City Manager Steve Rosenberg was writing his self-evaluation for his upcoming performance appraisal. That is, until Staunton City Council's meeting last week, when seemingly out of the blue, Councilwoman Amy Darby requested council go into a closed session to discuss Rosenberg's position with the city.  Instead of waiting for his performance appraisal, Rosenberg found himself negotiating the terms of his resignation — a "forced resignation" — clarified Dull. By voting yes, city council was in agreement with Rosenberg's terms for resignation. Rosenberg and Oakes would then sign an executed agreement which includes waiving all claims against Staunton City Council and the city of Staunton. Staunton taxpayers will be on the hook for $194,220 plus the cost of hiring a search firm to find Rosenberg's replacement.
News Leader

Gov. Glenn Youngkin and some Virginia lawmakers want to require police in every public school across the state: at the elementary, middle and high school level. That’s despite Virginia referring more youth to law enforcement than any other state in recent years, often for low-level offenses that disproportionately affect students of color. According to data provided by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, the majority of middle and high schools in Virginia already have a full-time SRO. There are only 30 middle schools and 26 high schools without any police presence. 596 of Virginia’s elementary schools don’t have police presence at all, and 405 elementary schools have only part-time police presence. The department said they can’t release the names of the school districts with and without SROs because it’s considered “information concerning security plans and specific assessment components of school safety audits,” per state code.

A group of activists pushing back against city plans to overhaul the Torpedo Factory Art Center have accused city leaders of working with developers to astroturf a pro-overhaul faction, but city leaders said the goal wasn’t to mislead. A petition with 7,694 signers at time of writing has become an online hub for those opposing the city’s plans to reduce artist studio space in the Torpedo Factory and replace it with alternative arts spaces (like glassblowing) or restaurant space. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made public by the petition organizers highlighted city emails with and about the “Torpedo Factory for All” initiative spearheaded by developer Route 66 Ventures — one of the developers pushing to lead the overhaul. The Torpedo Factory for All page describes the initiative as being led by “Torpedo Factory for All is a group of Alexandrians who are excited about the potential for a vibrant and sustainable Torpedo Factory Art Center.” The page makes no mention of Route 66 Ventures. The emails show that city leaders were aware of the distinction.

stories of national interest

A journalist is suing the Department of Defense, alleging that it broke the law in repeatedly denying his requests for public information based on his employment at a military publication. Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It contends that DOD, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps and U.S. Central Command committed numerous violations of the Freedom of Information Act from August 2020 through August 2021. Stars and Stripes is not one of the parties involved in the lawsuit. During the period covered by the suit, Garland made 15 requests as a private individual under FOIA, a federal law that allows people to obtain public records. The agencies denied all of those requests as well as his subsequent appeals because he is a federal employee. At issue is a DOD policy barring Stars and Stripes and its reporters from requesting public records through FOIA because the newspaper is administered under the department’s Defense Media Activity. That makes it a federal agency, meaning neither Stars and Stripes nor its reporters can use FOIA, Defense Department policy states.
Stars and Stripes

editorials & columns


Time will tell if “calamities” is too strong a word to use to describe what is happening in Spotsylvania. The new school board’s performance out of the gate, however, is reason for concern. The complaints lodged against the board by speakers at the past two meetings are many, but generally fall into two broad categories. The first is failure to follow protocols and procedures during meetings. The firing of Scott Baker as superintendent was done in a manner that may have violated Virginia’s open meeting requirements. It also occurred in the second closed session of the evening, which was not on the approved agenda. The second is a feeling among constituents that they simply are not being heard. The board has further frustrated constituents with its decision to move the public comment period to after the new business segment. In this way, the board is discussing and then voting on policies before hearing from those the policies directly affect. However, the citizens of Spotsylvania County must also look at themselves.
The Free Lance-Star