Transparency News 1/9/20


state & local news stories


Hoo boy! Those bills just keep coming. There are now more than 80 bills on VCOG's watch list. Granted, some are duplicates, but still, the list will only grow bigger because the bulk of Senate bills have not yet been posted.

The Senate adopted rules that still require votes by name on all motions, though not for all gills heard in the Rules Committee. The House has not introduced their rules yet.

There was already one hiccup in the notice of meetings when the Senate Education & Health Committee listed an 8:30 a.m. meeting for today on its committee docket page, but as of 10 p.m. last night, the meeting did not appear on the main meetings calendar.

And this morning, two more Senate meetings have been added for this afternoon, but as if 9 a.m., no docket information for one of them.


Local governments across central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley are working to make sure you have access to public records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA is on the books at both the state and federal level. It gives the public access to some government records. "What you're requesting is public information, public records, public documents which belong to the public and so we do the best that we can to make sure we get those proceed smoothly and efficiently to get people the information they're looking for,” Albemarle County Spokesperson Emily Kilroy said.

Charlottesville has implemented a new policy to standardize responses and charges for open records requests. The policy charges requestees in 15-minute increments to assemble documents under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act after an employee has spent 15 minutes on the requests. Requesters will also be charged for physical copies of documents that are more than five pages. Each page will be charged at 8-cents per page after five pages.
Daily Progress

Residents who wanted to speak at King George County Board of Supervisors meetings last year found their patience sometimes going down the drain because of how long they had to wait. It wasn’t because the board’s agenda was necessarily that full. It was because another county group—the King George County Service Authority Board of Directors—also listed its starting time at 6:30 p.m., and discussions of water and sewer problems sometimes lasted more than two hours. That pushed back the Board of Supervisors meetings, along with the time designated for comments from residents, public hearings and presentations until 8:30 or 9 p.m. “That is not reasonable for folks having to work the next morning, put children to bed, etc.,” said Jeff Bueche, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Other board members agreed on Tuesday, saying they want to start their meetings at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
The Free Lance-Star

Augusta County readers may have seen questions online this week about a potential conflict of interest between a supervisor and group that plans to lease space for a county library station. County residents who run the Facebook page "Eye on Augusta" posted about Middle River Supervisor Gerald Garber and his longtime business partner Keith Wilson, raising questions about the ethics surrounding the deal. Supervisors plan to vote at Wednesday's meeting whether to approve the lease. Garber said Wednesday that there was no wrongdoing and that he had no involvement in the proposed agreement. The lease agreement is with Cave Town Properties LLC. The registered address for that LLC was Wilson's, according to Augusta County real estate records. In Virginia, LLCs' identities are typically hard to track, so supervisors would have little way to find out identities.
News Leader

A $16 million lawsuit filed by Purcellville Police Chief Cynthia McAlister against the Town of Purcellville has been settled out of court, according to McAlister's attorney, Jacqueline Kramer of Westlake Legal Group in Sterling. The five-count lawsuit was filed on July 22, 2019, and named the Town of Purcellville, former town manager Alex Vanegas and several key players involved in an alleged scheme to oust McAlister from her post in 2017. “The case has been finalized and resolved to all parties' satisfaction,” Kramer told the Times-Mirror. She was not able to disclose monetary terms of the settlement due to a confidentiality clause.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ new rules of order include a new provision detailing what happens if a supervisor speaks publicly about what happens in a closed-door meeting. Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act allows elected officials to hold closed-door meetings and shield records from public disclosure in certain situations, but in almost no circumstances requires it. The state law also does not prohibit elected officials in one of those closed-door meetings from talking about what happens in that meeting publicly if they choose. But under the new local rules adopted Jan. 7, if a member speaks out, the board will vote to either retroactively approve that disclosure or reaffirm the decision to keep that information secret. The board then may also vote to sanction or censure a board member for “improper disclosure” of that information. County Attorney Leo Rogers said he proposed the new rule after attending a conference which raised the possibility of losing attorney-client privilege for the board if a supervisor released information from a closed session meeting.

Shenandoah County supervisors sent a message to the Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday – give local governments more time to review bills that could hit their budgets. Supervisors voted 6-0 at their regular meeting to adopt a resolution that requests the General Assembly to reinstate a policy that required legislators to introduce bills with a local, fiscal impact by the first day of the session. County Administrator Evan Vass explained to supervisors, including two new members Bradley Pollack and Timothy Taylor, the impetus behind the resolution. Supervisors did not intend to take action on the item at this meeting, but District 3 Supervisor Pollack pushed for board members to do so now. Supervisors amended the meeting agenda to make the resolution an action item under the consent agenda. Pollack pointed out that the General Assembly convened its session Wednesday so the resolution’s message would be more relevant than waiting to take action at a later meeting.
The Northern Virginia Daily