Transparency News, 1/4/2022


January 4, 2022
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state & local news stories
Some Norfolk City Council members want answers about the housing authority’s for-profit subsidiary that has invested the bulk of its federal tax subsidies in far-flung projects in 15 states and the District of Columbia, but not in Norfolk.  Following a two-part Virginia Mercury series, three members say they have asked for a report from City Attorney Bernard A. Pishko about the activities of Hampton Roads Ventures, a community development entity that has won $360 million in new markets tax credits since 2003 but put only a fraction of that into projects in Norfolk. Earlier in 2021, Delphine Carnes, the lawyer for NRHA and HRV, had twice refused a public records request for HRV’s “annual financial reports/balance sheets” saying the community development entity, which has won $360 million in federal tax subsidies, received no public funding. Carnes, in a reply to another email request sent Monday seeking to make HRV’s complete financial records public, pointed to the release of the audits. “You keep alleging that NRHA has failed to provide the financial records you requested, yet you are in possession of 10 years of HRV’s audited financial statements,” she wrote in an email. “What exactly are you requesting at this time?” She did not answer a reply noting the audits address only broad categories and do not reveal what individual employees and consultants were paid, including people who were on staff for both the housing authority and its for-profit subsidiary. Nor did she reply to whether she was now saying HRV’s records were subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Virginia Mercury

The Shenandoah County School Board might start holding monthly work sessions for public attendance. Discussing the potential change at its annual Monday morning organizational meeting, School Board members  tabled a formal discussion until the upcoming Jan. 13 public meeting. The idea to restructure the board’s work session format was introduced by Helsley, based on interest he had received from the board members. Raising what she saw as a redundancy of advisory committee meetings, District 5 board member Brandi Rutz pointed out that school divisions in Harrisonburg and Warren County had regular School Board work sessions instead of committees dedicated to discussing issues before taking them to their public meetings. Frederick County, in turn, has committees, Rutz said. Shenandoah tends to save important or lengthy discussions until the end of an already packed monthly meeting, she said.
The Northern Virginia Daily
stories from around the country
This summer, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell convened a three-day "Cyber Symposium" in South Dakota, promising to provide "irrefutable" evidence the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump by hackers. On hand at the symposium in Sioux Falls were dozens of state legislators from around the country, who have parroted Trump and Lindell's false fraud narrative, demanding audits of the long-settled election. Public records released to The Seattle Times last week show state Reps. Robert Sutherland, R- Granite Falls, Vicki Kraft, R- Vancouver, and Brad Klippert, R- Kennewick, requested and received expense reimbursements from the Legislature for the symposium. In all, the state paid $4,361 for their hotels and flights. 

editorials & opinion
Imagine that a Major League Baseball stadium were stolen via title fraud, and the owners had to go to court to prove that they, in fact, were the rightful title holders. Absurd as that sounds, it’s what happened to San Diego’s baseball stadium six years ago, and it wasn’t the result of a sophisticated criminal operation. A mentally ill man did this, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, simply by “walking into the San Diego County Recorder’s Office and submitting a properly filled-out deed transfer.” Such extreme incidents are rare, but it speaks to a real issue in public administration — the volume of public records, specifically land titles, that exist only in paper form. With this medium so susceptible to theft or damage, and with digitization available, why haven’t cities moved their real estate record business fully online?
Ethan Finlan, Governing