Transparency News, 2/3/2022


February 3, 2022

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Two Pound Town Council members acted unlawfully when they met and appointed an interim council member in September 2021, a Wise County Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday. Judge John Kilgore signed a final order in the September lawsuit against the town, council members Glenn Cantrell, Danny Stanley, Clifton Cauthorne and appointee James Pelfrey. The suit followed Cantrell and Stanley’s Sept. 14 meeting to appoint Pelfrey to the council seat vacated in March 2021 by Cantrell’s brother, Phil Cantrell Jr. Ten plaintiffs — including now-member Leabern Kennedy — claimed that Cantrell and Stanley did not call the meeting properly and did not have a legal quorum of the five-seat council to appoint Pelfrey and do council business in September. Mayor Stacey Carson — the presiding officer for all council meetings under the town charter — and Cauthorne were absent from the Sept. 14 meeting, and Carson did not call for that meeting under charter provisions. Kilgore’s order stated that: • The Sept. 14 meeting was not called properly. • Pelfrey was not sworn into office properly. • Carson is the presiding officer for council meetings until a chairperson is properly elected. • The Sept. 14 meeting and a subsequent Sept. 21 meeting were void under law and all decisions reversed since Carson was not present and presiding over either meeting.
Times News

Bristol, Virginia, officials need more time to respond to a Freedom of Information request from Bristol, Tennessee seeking information about their landfill because it is “voluminous and overly broad,” Bristol Virginia City Manager Randy Eads said Wednesday. Eads was responding to comments made during a Bristol Tennessee City Council meeting Tuesday, when City Manager Bill Sorah said that Bristol, Virginia officials haven’t responded to the FOIA request, although they’ve been given two extensions. “The City of Bristol, Virginia has outside counsel providing legal guidance to the City as it relates to the FOIA request,” Eads wrote in an email to the Bristol Herald Courier. “… Fulfilling this FOIA request will require more time than provided for in the Code of Virginia.”  The FOIA document was filed Jan. 11, and it includes 13 requests for information, ranging from the minutes of all meetings in which the budget for the landfill was discussed, to the public records of the staffing and management of the landfill, including pay, employment applications and disciplinary actions. It also requests all public records, including internal correspondence, related to actions taken to address notices of violations by state and federal agencies and public records of any reports, assessments, recommendations and evaluations conducted by consultants in relation to the landfill. The time frame for the documents and records requested is from 2016 until now.
Bristol Herald Courier

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s choice for Virginia natural resources secretary has at least half a million dollars in investments in mutual funds, according to a required state form filed in January. Nominee Andrew Wheeler disclosed the information on his statement of economic interest, a form he and other choices of the governor for high-level posts must submit to the state government. Wheeler said in an interview he does not control any stocks purchased within the funds. Even though the General Assembly is now debating whether to approve the governor’s selections of Wheeler and others for the posts, the state has not released the economic interest forms publicly. The Richmond Times-Dispatch obtained Wheeler’s form from a source who provided it on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release it. The newspaper on Wednesday asked the state Division of Legislative Services for a copy of all forms submitted by Youngkin’s choices for Cabinet and agency head positions.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The debate over restricting campaign cash doesn’t fall neatly along party lines, with both Republican and Democratic legislators pushing reform bills. Regardless of which party has ruled committees over the years, enough bipartisan votes coalesce to block the legislation from moving forward, leaving Virginia one of about a dozen states that put virtually no limits on campaign donations. Del. Tim Anderson, a Trump-style Republican from Virginia Beach, told a House subcommittee he believes one of the reasons he flipped a Democratic-held seat last fall was the public’s perception that politicians in Richmond are beholden to powerful donors. “Virginia is the Wild West. It’s embarrassing,” Anderson said at the Wednesday hearing. “The voters want to talk about it. The voters want it.” The subcommittee, though, didn’t want to talk about it, unanimously voting down Anderson’s proposal to put federal-style caps on the amount of money political campaigns can take from a single donor.
Virginia Mercury

Outgoing Abingdon Town Manager Jimmy Morani’s controversial management style could partly be why he’s leaving his post. “I’m just tired of fighting battles. And for my own sanity, I need to move on,” Morani said. “I was not asked to leave. And I would say that under oath. It was my idea.” For more than a year, Morani has been criticized on social media and among former employees for his management style. Mayor Derek Webb took that to task by saying, “His management style is very rigid. He has a very specific way that he likes things to be done.” “Jimmy’s biggest fault is that he’s not from around here,” Webb said.
Bristol Herald Courier

stories of national interest

The New York Times is still digging into HUNTER BIDEN’s business relationships. In a new lawsuit on Monday, the newspaper sued the State Department to obtain emails from Romanian embassy officialssent between 2015 and 2019 mentioning a number of international business people, including the president’s son and his former business associate TONY BOBULINSKI, who briefly became a political celebrity at the end of the 2020 election because of his Biden connections.  The FOIA requests also seek information on former New York City Mayor RUDY GIULIANI, who was dispatched by DONALD TRUMP to find dirt on Hunter Biden’s business relationships in Ukraine. In its filing in federal court in Manhattan, the Times accuses the department of dragging its feet on fulfilling multiple FOIA requests sent last year, beginning in June.

A federal appeals court signaled Wednesday that it is inclined to give journalists another chance to argue for public release of the Justice Department’s basis for obtaining a search warrant in 2020 for Sen. Richard Burr’s phone as part of an insider trading investigation. Justice Department officials informed Burr (R-N.C.) in January 2021 that the criminal investigation was closed, but last May, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the federal district court in Washington issued a sweeping opinion denying the Los Angeles Times’ request to see what justified the unusual search warrant aimed at an incumbent senator.