Transparency News 1/8/19



January 8, 2019


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


state & local news stories




"Randall’s ban of Davison amounted to an effort ‘to suppress speech critical of [such members’] conduct of [their] official duties."

Several new bills were added to VCOG's legislative chart yesterday. Check them out here, and expect loads more tomorrow.

An elected official in Northern Virginia violated the First Amendment when she temporarily blocked a constituent on Facebook, a federal appeals court ruled Monday in a novel case with implications for how government officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media. The unanimous ruling from the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the first from an appeals court to answer the question of whether free speech protections prevent public officials from barring critics from their social media feeds. The 42-page opinion addresses the Facebook page of Phyllis J. Randall, chairwoman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Randall’s case arose after she briefly blocked community activist Brian Davison in early 2016 for accusations she deemed slanderous. “That Randall’s ban of Davison amounted to an effort ‘to suppress speech critical of [such members’] conduct of [their] official duties or fitness for public office’ further reinforces that the ban was taken under color of state law.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The U.S. Postal Service inspector general officially cleared a prominent conservative research group of any wrongdoing for getting its hands on Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s complete and unredacted official personnel file last summer. America Rising, a conservative opposition research group contracted by dozens of conservative PACs and campaign committees each election cycle to dig up dirt on Democratic candidates, went through the proper channels, submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for Spanberger’s file to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the IG concluded in its report released in late December.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Charlottesville officials and residents sparred in muted tones over the city’s police department and the initial Police Civilian Review Board on Monday. The sticking point between the board and the council is police data, which the board says it must have to complete its mission. The board and the council had issues before the CRB was even formed. The data in question is information on arrests and stop-and-frisks. The CRB has sought data from the last seven years to address specific community problems with policing, such as excessive use of force, civilian complaints and stop-and-frisk.
The Daily Progress


stories of national interest

Look no farther than the Instagram video that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted of herself dancing down a Capitol Hill hallway: A new generation of younger, tech-savvy lawmakers is bringing a different social media playbook to Washington.  But open government advocates are raising new concerns about how policymakers are using some of the more ephemeral features of social media — including “Stories” that expire after 24 hours on Instagram, Snap and even Facebook. Unlike traditional posts, these missives delete by default, which could leave no trace of political messages or policy stances. “There is public interest value in the preservation of those stories,” said Alex Howard, a government transparency advocate who previously served as deputy director of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation. 
The Washington Post

When a Border Patrol agent is contemplating pulling someone over, they have a checklist of possible behaviors to look out for. They can determine “whether the vehicle or its load looks unusual in some way,” or “whether the passengers appeared dirty.” If those descriptions don’t apply, they can assess “whether the persons inside the vehicle avoid looking at the agent,” or conversely, “whether the persons inside the vehicle are paying undue attention to the agent’s presence.” And if those don’t apply, they can simply determine that the car is in an area nearby the border and pull it over on that basis alone. The Border Patrol’s authority doesn’t only apply to remote stretches of the border. Agents also deploy in cities, searching for people they believe to have illegally entered the country; board buses and ask passengers to prove they are in the country legally; and conscript civilians to assist them with law enforcement activities under threat of arrest. These details and others were revealed in more than 1,000 pages of previously unseen Customs and Border Protection training documents.
The Intercept