Transparency News, 1/6/2022


January 6, 2022

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state & local news stories

"Just because [she] was in the group, does not mean she participated in or had seen the list of parents some members allegedly sought to target."

The Portsmouth Circuit Court clerk has been awarded more than $46,000 to preserve local records. The grant comes from the Circuit Court Records Preservation (CCRP) program, according to a City of Portsmouth news release. It totals $46,069.52 and will be used to digitize Law Order Books – Husting July 1866 to June 1973 and Law Order Books - Circuit Court July 1866 to June 1973. The books are currently stored in the Portsmouth Circuit Court Clerks's Office.

Certain Middlesex County Circuit Court records, some of which are more than 200 years old, will be “digitized” for preservation thanks to a grant from the Library of Virginia, said Rachel Hartenbach, Middlesex Circuit Court Clerk. The process will copy fragile paper documents into permanent electronic storage to back up these priceless records, she indicated. “We’re very excited,” said Hartenbach. “These records are the history of our county. We have an obligation to make sure that they are available for future generations.” The $60,329 grant is from the Library of Virginia’s Circuit Court Records Preservation (CCRP) and will be used to digitize land records and conserve county records stored in the Middlesex Courthouse.
Southside Sentinel

The Henry County Board of Supervisors is asking the Henry County Circuit Court for a judgement to stop the City of Martinsville from forcing the county to accept a Voluntary Settlement Agreement (VSA) regarding reversion. Both the city and the county were on the verge of passing on to a three-judge panel Martinsville’s process of reverting from a city to a town when the Henry County Board of Supervisors voted to reject the agreement it already had signed. Now both sides are pursuing relief through the courts. “The Board of Supervisors negotiated and considered a settlement agreement with Martinsville and ultimately rejected the agreement,” said Henry County Attorney George Lyle. “If Martinsville wants to pursue this, the matter of reversion and the future of our schools should be re-submitted to the Commission on Local Government (COLG) for further consideration in an open and public process. A private arbitrator should not decide this matter.”
Martinsville Bulletin

A Circuit Court judge heard arguments for two motions in the cases to remove Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) and Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) from the School Board during a full day in court Wednesday. The hearing for the case against Sheridan was scheduled for 10 a.m. and the case against Reaser for 1p.m., but the parties agreed to use the arguments for both cases, because the motions are virtually identical. Judge Jeanette A. Irby presided over the hearing. Fight for Schools, represented by David Warrington, alleges that School Board members violated open-meeting laws and their oaths of office by participating in the private Facebook group, Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County. Members of that group were accused of planning to target parents who criticized the School Board’s equity policies. 
The arguments centered around the Facebook group, and Sheridan’s involvement in it. Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj sought to establish that just because Sheridan was in the group, does not mean she participated in or had seen the list of parents some members allegedly sought to target.

Starting Wednesday, public meetings held in the City Council Chamber in Suffolk will have seating limitations due to rising COVID-19 cases in the area. City officials made the announcement Wednesday highlighting the need for social distance during the meeting. These meetings include City Council meetings, planning commission meetings, and board of zoning appeals meetings along with other public meetings. The meeting will be aired live on the Suffolk Municipal Channel and live-streamed.

“We knew that it was time for him to go,” said Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chair Vic Ingram. “We voted based on the demands of the citizens. We have been inundated with people saying he needs to go.” During an interview Wednesday, Supervisor Ron Scearce chalked up the move to fire County Administrator David Smitherman to animosity on Ingram’s part, retaliation for when Smitherman stood up for an employee whom Ingram wanted dismissed from their job.
Danville Register & Bee

The Frederick County School Board voted 4-2 on Tuesday night to elect Back Creek District representative Brandon Monk as its chairman and Opequon District representative Bradley Comstock as its vice chairman for 2022. Board members Miles Adkins and Linda Martin, along with Monk and Comstock, voted in favor of the nominations, while Brian Hester and Ellen White opposed. Hester told Monk that he would not have his vote and said he felt Monk should have spoken with him previously about running for chairman."And, you know, over this past year, you are the one board member that has missed the most meetings with your travel. And there are times where you don’t even pick up your packet. So with that said, I am against you being chair.”
The Winchester Star

stories of national interest

"The agreements purport to bind each of the lawmakers for five years — which is longer than any of their current terms in the Legislature."

Thirteen Michigan lawmakers — including the four House and Senate leaders from both parties — signed confidentiality agreements with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., promising to keep quiet about plans for up to four new Michigan manufacturing plants, records show. Records the Free Press obtained through Michigan's Freedom of Information Act show the agreements purport to bind each of the lawmakers for five years — which is longer than any of their current terms in the Legislature. The agreements themselves do not give any details about any pending development projects, but say that as the MEDC works with the lawmakers on the potential projects, they might be provided with confidential details. The lawmakers are barred from sharing such details, including "potential job creation, investment, site location, site selection criteria, company identity, operations plans, company decision timeline, potential incentive offers, and any other details."
Detroit Free Press