Transparency News 2/11/19

February 11, 2019
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state & local news stories
EDA members signed non-disclosure agreements to guard against leaks in an investigation being conducted by an anonymous financial consultant.
Saying it’s “time to stand with Ron Frazier,” supporters of the Rappahannock supervisor are turning to the crowdfunding platform “GoFundMe” to raise money for his personal legal expenses surrounding alleged FOIA violations by him and certain other members of the BOS in which he alone has admitted guilt. The GoFundMe page for the Jackson district supervisor was created on Jan. 16 and has since raised $2,800, surpassing the $2,500 goal. That said, 11 of the 26 donations — totaling $1,625 — are from “Anonymous” donors, and to collect that money under other circumstances Frazier, as an elected official, would have been required to list their names and addresses on his annual disclosure form.
Rappahannock News

A half-dozen firearms were stopped at Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport’s passenger checkpoint in 2018, according to a Transportation Security Administration report issued Thursday. That’s an increase from the three confiscated in 2017, but a fraction of the more than 80 firearms seized from passengers boarding at airports across the state last year. According to TSA, the civil penalty for first offenders is $3,900. TSA frequently issues news alerts about firearms stopped at local airports, but it typically does not identify the person cited. A federal Freedom of Information Act request, filed by The Roanoke Times in November and seeking citations and penalties against the nine people stopped in Roanoke over the past two years, has not yet been fulfilled.
The Roanoke Times

At the center of the public saga of Charlottesville’s quest for a police oversight body is what has become a buzzphrase — “raw data.” It’s a rallying call for supporters of increased accountability and a tricky issue for Police Chief RaShall Brackney in the seven months she’s been in her post. Understanding raw data is important to understanding the ongoing issues between the city and the initial Police Civilian Review Board. 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. According to emails provided by the city, Brackney has since provided use of force and civilian complaint information and public PowerPoint presentations on stop-and-frisk information. Supporters and activists have said the presentations aren’t enough and that CPD needs to provide raw data.
The Daily Progress

Warren County has contracted an attorney to represent the Board of Supervisors regarding certain issues with the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority in the event that any conflicts of interest arise for County Attorney Dan Whitten. The county entered a contract with attorney Robert T. Mitchell, who County Administrator Doug Stanley said over the phone will be paid $275 per hour. The county also paid a $10,000 down payment in September to an unrevealed financial consultant that is working on the EDA audit. That same firm was paid $90,000 in December and $60,000 this week. At the financial consultant’s request, Whitten said that all EDA board members, supervisors, Stanley and Mitchell have signed confidentiality agreements. Whitten said those who signed the agreements cannot reveal anything the financial consultant has discovered. He said signing a nondisclosure is normal “just to protect everyone” because “there is a lot of sensitive information.”  Whitten said the firm does not want any leaks until a final report is ready and if “any people need to be held accountable, we can do that at that point.” He said whatever information the investigation reveals will be made public, which will hopefully be in the next month.
The Northern Virginia Daily
stories of national interest
A vocal minority of Greenville County, South Carolina, Council members is questioning how County Administrator Joe Kernell's current compensation was established in 2011 and how he has enjoyed pay increases every year since then without a performance review. It's not a question of the administrator's competence but of transparency, they say. Kernell currently earns $280,600 a year, has 38 vacation days, 12 sick days and the use of a county SUV, according to a Greenville News review of the administrator's contract, provided after a Freedom of Information Act request. Taxpayers also contribute an amount equal to 10 percent of his salary into a retirement account every year.
The Grenville News

America’s problems with solving our climate crisis predate President Trump and go deeper than petty snark. It's a problem when the government doesn’t keep good track of how much it’s spending to fight climate change. That could be said about the Trump administration — and several others before it. “We collect a lot of useful information, but we don’t make it available in useful ways,” said Alfredo Gomez, director of the natural resources and environment team at the Government Accountability Office, a federal agency that investigates and evaluates the government for Congress.

editorials & columns
Public universities should release records showing how they punish students found liable for committing serious crimes on campus, a coalition of open-government advocates argues in a brief filed with the North Carolina Supreme Court. An amicus brief authored by Brechner Center attorneys and joined by the Student Press Law Center supports the right of college journalists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to obtain records of disciplinary outcomes that UNC is withholding. UNC lawyers have argued that Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) gives them the option whether to honor or reject journalists’ requests for records involving student discipline. The North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected that argument in an April 2018 ruling, ordering the university to produce the requested documents. UNC is now appealing.
Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center