Transparency News 2/13/14

Thursday, February 13, 2014
State and Local Stories


Picture a giant amoeba, shapeless and stretching in all directions. That's the Code of Virginia, according to some lawmakers. Its thousands of laws should fit into a neat list, but after years of changes, they're more like a many-armed monster. The wonkishly named Subcommittee on Feasibility of Reorganizing/Renumbering the Code of Virginia aims to change that. Its members on Wednesday discussed a massive overhaul that would give each law a new number and group similar ones together. "It's going to be a nightmare," said Robert Tavenner, director of the state Division of Legislative Services. "Just a technical nightmare." But if done right, he and other members said, it would give Virginia a far more user-friendly law book.

A former Amherst County treasurer who pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement and one count of money laundering is set to be sentenced in April. Evelyn Martin, 60, who served as treasurer from 2009 to 2011 and worked for more than three decades in the Amherst County Treasurer’s Office, admitted in Amherst Circuit Court in late January to committing felonious transactions during her employment.
News & Advance

The Virginia House of Delegates wants police to get a warrant before they track location data from cell phones. The bill, HB17, which passed the House of Delegates unanimously Tuesday, specifically targets IMSI catchers — devices that pick up signals from nearby cell phones by mimicking a cell phone tower, known as a Stingray or a Chum device. Virginia Bureau

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday officially filed his class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration over National Security Agency data collection, joining with two prominent tea party leaders to make the announcement. Paul, a libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican and potential presidential contender, inveighed against NSA surveillance and promised a “historic” lawsuit. He and his allies hope to take the case, which focuses on the NSA’s gathering of telephone metadata, to the Supreme Court. Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general and last fall’s unsuccessful GOP nominee for governor, is serving as lead counsel for the case.

National Stories

The Ohio Supreme Court is set to decide whether a reporter will be forced to testify in a lawyer’s disciplinary hearing. While Ohio has a shield statute that protects journalists from having to reveal sources of information in court, the state has not yet determined whether the reporter’s privilege extends into quasi-judicial or administrative proceedings, according to court filings. Attorney Larry Shenise was quoted in the Akron Beacon Journal as saying that his 80-year-old client was arrested after failing to show up to a civil hearing because the court did not notify Shenise of the hearing. The judge in that trial, Paul Gallagher, filed a grievance against Shenise with the Akron Bar Association. Shenise then replied that he was misquoted in the story. The Akron Bar Association subpoenaed the newspaper’s reporter, Phil Trexler, to testify at the disciplinary hearing. The reporter submitted an affidavit saying his story was accurate but refused to testify, which led the bar association to request that the Ohio Supreme Court hold Trexler in contempt for refusing to testify.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The New Hampshire Supreme Court overturned a felony wiretapping conviction Tuesday of a blogger who recorded phone conversations with a law enforcement official and two school officials. The blogger, Adam Mueller, operates the website, which says it aims to hold police accountable. A New Hampshire statute makes it a felony for anyone to “willfully intercept” a communication without the consent of all parties to the communication. At trial, the jury was instructed to find Mueller guilty if he “purposefully” intercepted the communications. The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that “purposefully” and “willfully” have two very different meanings. The first simply means that he knowingly recorded the conversation without the parties’ consent. But “willfully” means that the defendant acted “with an intentional or reckless disregard for the lawfulness of his conduct.” Therefore, if the defendant had a “good faith belief” that his recording was lawful, he cannot be guilty.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Twenty-two teachers at an upstate New York public school wrote letters to a judge supporting a colleague who sexually assaulted an 8-year-old boy, and parents of students in the Rochester district want those teachers' names. Prosecutors say putting LoMaglio behind bars was made more difficult by a lack of cooperation from his fellow School 19 teachers. And they, as well as parents and the city's mayor, were shocked that so many teachers would stick up for LoMaglio as a judge considered his sentence. Now the demand for the identities of the teachers as an online petition is currently making the rounds, according to, which attempted to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the letters but was shot down by the Judge's office, being told that only government officials could make a request.
Fox News

A bill that would allow Alaska municipalities to post certain public notices online rather than in newspapers advanced from a state House committee Tuesday. Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said the bill, HB275, is part of an effort toward making government agencies more efficient while not compromising the public's need to know. The bill would give municipalities the option of posting mill rate, foreclosure and redemption of foreclosure notices on municipal websites that are accessible to the public instead of being published in newspapers. Bill Kunerth, publisher of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, said the bill had just come to his attention and that he needed additional time to review it. However, he said there is no comparison between the reach of the newspaper, both in the print and online editions, and that of a municipal website. The bill now could be scheduled for a House floor vote.
Anchorage Daily News

A Kansas University law professor said Tuesday that the Kansas Board of Regents' new policy on theuse of social media may be unconstitutional because of its vagueness and the chilling effect it could have on protected free speech. “The Board of Regents policy is subject to the First Amendment,” KU professor Richard Levy. Levy, who teaches constitutional law at KU, spoke to a group of higher education faculty members who were appointed by the Regents to review the controversial policy, which says faculty and staff members may be suspended or fired for making “improper use of social media.” The Board of Regents adopted that policy in December in the wake of public uproar over anti-NRA comments that KU journalism professor David Guth had posted on Twitter.
Lawrence Journal-World


The Danville School Board meeting room was packed. It was the first board meeting since published reports — backed up by police reports and on-the-record interviews — confirmed the breakdown of discipline at Bonner Middle School. The School Board — without mentioning the stories in the Danville Register & Bee — admitted that we got the stories right in a subsequent news release. At that point, the correct thing for School Board members to do would have been to publicly acknowledge the problems at Bonner and apologize, outline the efforts made to fix those problems and extend an olive branch to those in attendance. While the board’s actions since learning of trouble at Bonner Middle last fall have been correct, the school system has a much larger public relations problem. Say what everyone knows and say you’re sorry. Promise that it won’t happen again, and that you will personally work to make things right.
Register & Bee