Transparency News 2/10/20



February 10, 2020

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state & local news stories




Registration for VCOG's annual conference -- March 20 in Harrisonburg -- is live and waiting for all-comers to catch a break on registration with early-bird pricing.

Run, don't walk!

A deputy sheriff must face trial on a claim she violated the First Amendment rights of a Spotsylvania County woman by offering to buy another deputy lunch if he issued her a traffic ticket in retaliation for critical Facebook posts and other statements. As summarized by U.S. District Judge David J. Novak in a 25-page opinion Wednesday, the case began at 8:06 a.m. Jan. 24, 2019, when Deputy Sheriff James Riley spotted three vehicles, one driven by Rebecca Snoeyenbos, pass a stopped school bus that had its red lights flashing and had extended a stop sign. Riley pulled over all three drivers and ran license checks over his radio. Riley told Snoeyenbos what he has seen her do and she confirmed that she understood what she had done to warrant the stop. Spotsylvania County Deputy Sheriff Marcia Curtis overheard Snoeyenbos’ name on the air when Riley checked the plates. Curtis called Riley’s cellphone and Riley answered the call using a Bluetooth feature in his cruiser. Curtis said, “If you ticket this Snoeyenbos person, I will buy you lunch.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

For a year and a half, a Virginia mother of seven young girls has been frustrated by repeated delays in the domestic violence case against her estranged husband because his defense lawyer exercised a privilege that most other attorneys don’t have. Nine separate times, court records show, the appeals trial for her former NASCAR driver husband has been delayed because his attorney, Republican state lawmaker Jeff Campbell, signaled he was too busy with legislative business to go to court. Court records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, which cover a sampling of Campbell’s work, show the privilege has been invoked in at least 30 of his cases since late 2016. In many cases — including ones involving drug possession and abduction — Campbell has used the privilege multiple times. Other documents show he has invoked it in a civil case involving child-support payments. “The record is what the record is,” Campbell said, in response to questions from AP.
Associated Press

A judge barred the public from the courtroom Thursday in the case of a Portsmouth police officer accused of raping a 17-year-old girl while on duty last year. Prosecutors presented evidence and testimony at a preliminary hearing for Cleshaun Cox — but details about that evidence and testimony remain publicly unknown as a Virginian-Pilot reporter was not permitted to attend the hearing. The newspaper objected to the courtroom closure.
The Virginian-Pilot

A staff member at a Virginia children’s hospital under criminal investigation and the center of a CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigation has been arrested for sex crimes. As part of that ongoing investigation, it’s collected “approximately 250 pages of documents and information, including, but not limited to, complaints court orders, memoranda, notes, diagrams, maps, photographs, correspondence, reports, witness statements, and evidence in whole or in part,” according to a response from VSP to a CBS 6 request under the Freedom of Information Act.

First responders in Charlottesville are working long hours to make up for a shortage of EMTs and firefighters. A lack of funding can mean staff members are forced to work multiple overtime shifts every week, making a big impact on their families. Between 2015 and 2019, the city has spent more than $3.7 million in over time for the people at the Charlottesville Fire Department (CFD).  According to documents obtained by NBC29 through the Freedom of Information Act, CFD Chief Andrew Baxter claims he has requested the funding for additional positions from three different city managers over the last several years. In an email to City Manager Tarron Richardson, Baxter says that funding for nine new positions cannot wait until the city's budget is approved this July.

stories of national interest

Baltimore County, Md., could create a registry of private security cameras under a bipartisan proposal from five council members who want to help police more quickly track down possible video evidence of crimes. The bill would create a voluntary private security camera registry for property owners with devices pointed toward a public right-of-way, according to the proposal. The program would map where cameras are located to help detectives identify possible security footage in areas where crimes happened. The American Civil Liberties Union released a report in 2014 saying the proliferation of surveillance cameras is threatening residents’ right to privacy. The report recommended “any private cameras that become part of a larger government network need to maintain the same standards and procedures that govern the network." The group has also questioned the relationship between some camera manufacturers and police. Woodstock Democrat Julian Jones Jr., however, said the program wouldn’t have direct access to camera footage. Registration records and any obtained footage, the bill states, would be kept “confidential to the extent permitted by law.” The bill states the county won’t solicit or use footage “in such a way as to effectively violate any person’s privacy.”

"Registration records and any obtained footage, the bill states, would be kept 'confidential to the extent permitted by law.'"