Transparency News 3/12/14

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

State and Local Stories  

The State Board of Elections has moved the deadline for releasing periodic campaign finance reports from 5 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on the day the reports are due. Because election officials made the change without public notice, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration required the board to open up an after-the-fact comment periodso members of the public can express their views through an online survey. The comment period ends March 26.

The Richmond Department of Finance lacks the technical expertise to prepare a key financial report, according to an external auditor that reviews the city’s financial statements. This year, the city’s comprehensive annual financial report, or CAFR, was delivered to the City Council several months late, and officials have said the problems arose partly because of several vacancies in the department. A report on the city’s internal process from Cherry Bekaert, the accounting firm that conducts independent audits of the city’s financial statements, sheds light on some of the troubles that arose.

Newport News City Council members voted Tuesday to tighten the rules that govern what they can and can't charge the city when it comes to conference trip expenses, meals where they discuss city business and mileage. Reimbursable expenses for city employees were already laid out in a set of city guidelines but the council had been operating under the honor code. Councilman Rob Coleman, who asked for the council to operate under those same existing guidelines, said he was uncomfortable with the council being held to a laxer standard. "I don't believe there should be two sets of rules," he said. He also said oversight was lacking: "We could technically walk out … and go buy a refrigerator."
Daily Press

A special committee has selected S.B. Ballard Construction Co. as the initial contractor to build five new school buildings through an alternative bidding process, according to emails obtained by The Virginian-Pilot. The committee, composed of city and school officials, picked the company over two others vying for a contract through the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act process, according to emails between school officials. That law allows the city to review unsolicited and competing bids from private companies for public projects. Neither the city nor the division has made a formal announcement about a selection.

Federal prosecutors say they do not need to provide a detailed accounting of the corruption allegations against former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen because the 43-page indictment against them is self-explanatory. “The detailed indictment in this case, standing alone, fairly apprises the defendants of the charges, allows them to prepare their defenses fully, and enables them to avoid undue surprise at trial,” federal prosecutors say in a 68-page response to motions by the McDonnells. “A bill of particulars is further unnecessary given the extensive and easily searchable discovery already provided to the defendants,” the prosecutors say.
News & Advance



By killing a redistricting referendum, a Republican-dominated House subcommittee preserved a system that favors that chamber's majority party at the expense of competitive elections, voter turnout and, ultimately, the public's interests.