Transparency News 1/7/19



January 7, 2019


Follow the bills that VCOG follows on our annual legislative bill chart.


state & local news stories




Councilman Parker Agelasto’s move from the district he was elected to represent elicited calls for his resignation from some of his constituents last year. Now, one is taking him to court over it. Former Richmond City Councilman Henry “Chuck” Richardson is asking a Richmond Circuit Court judge to settle a question the general registrar and city attorney have not: whether Agelasto can finish out his four-year term. The lawsuit, filed Thursday, states that Agelasto’s move out of the 5th District and to the 1st has harmed the 5th District’s residents and generated “havoc and uncertainty” over the legitimacy of his council votes.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

It’s one of those arcane votes that has to be taken by the Arlington County Board at its annual organizational meeting. And, as has been the case for, well, perhaps forever, board members have voted not to appoint a “tie-breaker” from the ranks of the public. Under state law, local elected bodies have the power to designate a member of the public to break ties. Arlington, and one presumes most if not all other jurisdictions in the commonwealth, have seldom if ever used it, but officials still have to formally reject the option at the start of each new year.

Starting ­­­­with the first Bristol Tennessee City Council meeting of the year on Tuesday, city residents can livestream council meetings from the comfort of their homes. The first livestream of the 7 p.m. meeting can be viewed on computers, smartphones, tablets or other internet-connected devices, according to a news release from the city. Council began filming its general business meetings as early as December 2011, and made audio recordings since long before that, but this will be the first time the city has experimented with livestreaming.
Bristol Herald Courier


stories of national interest

Like lots of Americans, Robert Frese is not shy about expressing his views on the internet. Last year, in a comment on a newspaper’s Facebook page, he said a New Hampshire police officer who had given him a traffic citation was “a dirty cop.” The police chief, Mr. Frese added, was a coward who had covered up the matter. The police officers might have looked the other way. They might have responded, explaining their positions and letting readers decide who was right. They might have filed a civil suit for libel, seeking money from Mr. Frese. Instead, they did a fourth thing, one that seems at odds with the American commitment to free expression, particularly where criticism of government officials is concerned. They arrested Mr. Frese, saying he had committed criminal libel. About half of states have laws making libel a crime, and prosecutions are not uncommon. The New Hampshire law is fairly typical. It makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to say or write something “he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.” Brian Hauss, an A.C.L.U. lawyer, said the New Hampshire law and others like it violated the First Amendment.
The New York Times