Transparency News, 1/6/21


 January 6, 2021
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state & local news stories

Check out our video on navigating the Legislative Information System (LIS) for legislation in the 2021 General Assembly session.
New video and audio is shedding additional light on the controversial encounter between Arlington police officers and a Black photographer in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood. Bodycam footage of the Dec. 21 encounter and audio of a neighbor’s call to police, which prompted the incident, were released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Arlington branch of the NAACP. The media was shared tonight with ARLnow.

A consulting firm has determined that Charlottesville’s government lacks the stability to effectively recruit a new city manager, leading to a call to wait until the next election to hire for the position, a sharp war of words and an emergency meeting. The City Council will hold an emergency meeting at 11 a.m. Wednesday for a closed session to discuss prospective candidates for the city manager position, the contract for finding a city manager and consultation with legal counsel.
The Daily Progress

An interesting cross-section of Culpeper County is stepping up to seek the county School Board’s Jefferson District post. Four residents of the district have applied for the post, which was vacated Dec. 31 when board member Michelle North resigned. On Monday night, the School Board held a public hearing at which the four applicants described their qualifications and their supporters spoke.
Culpeper Star-Exponent

Front Royal Town Council members voted 4-1 at a special meeting Monday to appoint former Councilman Jacob A. Meza to fill the vacancy. Meza’s first term expired Dec. 31. Council members then needed to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. Members conducted interviews in closed sessions with four people interested in serving in the position.
The Northern Virginia Daily


editorials & columns
"If they insist on doing that, they might not last more than one term in office, but four years can be a very long time not to see your local representative."
A change will likely be made to FOIA that recognizes the reality of a long-lasting event such as the pandemic and allows government to function during it. That change is generally seen as a reasonable means of addressing the problem. Far more troubling has been the growing interest in creating a more flexible rule for public officials who find attending meetings inconvenient, and the broadened use of electronics during the pandemic has fueled that interest. Some allowance is already made. A member of any public body can declare a personal emergency and the body can allow that member to participate in the meeting electronically. A quorum of the body still has to be assembled in a public location and no member can use the exemption more than twice a year. This fall, though, the FOIA Council bowed to pressure to increase the limit to 25% of all meetings for members who declare only that a “personal matter” has come up, a significant departure from personal “emergency.” That probably would not have been an intolerable change, but the council also endorsed a move to allow any member of a public body unlimited participation electronically if they are caring for a family member with a medical condition that requires the public official’s presence at home. Thus, a person whose grandmother — or third cousin twice removed — lives with them and needs medical care could run for public office, get elected and never once have to attend a public meeting in person. If they insist on doing that, they might not last more than one term in office, but four years can be a very long time not to see your local representative.
John Edwards, The Smithfield Times