Transparency News 3/19/19



March 19, 2019


Eventbrite - ACCESS 2019: VCOG's Open Government Conference
April 11 | Hampton University

state & local news stories




The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $23 million incentives package for Amazon to build a headquarters facility in Crystal City at a raucous meeting Saturday repeatedly disrupted by protesters who shouted “shame” and twice forced the board members to briefly leave the room. The opponents — led by left-wing groups and immigrants’ organizations — stepped up their catcalls and interruptions when Amazon executives began testifying directly to the board after the public hearing. They did not relent even when Board Chair Christian Dorsey warned that he might have them removed, and their shouting led the board, its staff and the Amazon representatives to leave the room for about 15 minutes shortly after 6 p.m. The board returned, but the Amazon officials did not. Minutes later, the board members left again, for a shorter period, when Chris Otten, an activist from the District, started shouting and swearing and walked to the front of the room where the board was sitting. Security personnel physically removed Otten as he screamed that he had a broken arm and held him down for several minutes outside the room before dragging him away. He was later charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, NBC 4 reported.
The Washington Post

Prince William County School Board Occoquan representative Lillie Jessie proposed that her board change its travel policy to allow for board members to be reimbursed for travel inside their districts and to and from board meetings. School division documents shared by Coles school board member Willie Deutsch reveal that between Jan. 1 of 2016 to Dec. 31 of 2018,* Jessie received $6,772.52 in travel reimbursements designated “mileage.” Others on the board submitted $301 or less. To clue in local media, Deutsch forwarded documents provided by John M. Wallington, Director of Financial Services. They included copies of travel reimbursement requests submitted by Jessie, Alyson Satterwhite, Justin Wilk (Potomac), Shawn Brann, who was Acting-Brentsville representative, and himself. No one else had submitted thousands of dollars for reimbursement. And no one else submitted miles traveled within their own district.
Bristow Beat

The first black woman to lead a municipal police force in Virginia abruptly resigned from her job Monday as the police chief in Portsmouth, a majority-black city that was roiled by a police shooting before she arrived. Tonya Chapman offered no public explanation for her departure after three years. City officials declined to discuss the matter, saying it was a personnel issue.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A legal threat may have soured an already packed race for the 17th District state Senate seat. Republican hopeful Rich Breeden said two-term incumbent Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, threatened to sue him for defamation this past week during a chat they had after filing their paperwork to run. Breeden, vice president of government contractor Kingfisher Systems and an Air Force veteran, said that after he gave his paperwork for candidacy to the district chair on March 11, he approached Reeves to wish him good luck and ask whether he planned to run for a congressional seat. During their conversation, Breeden said Reeves, an insurance agent who was first elected to the 17th District in 2011, threatened to sue for defamation if he did not stop “attacking him during the campaign.”
The Free Lance-Star

The Charlottesville Police Department is adding more information about people who are arrested to a recently unveiled open data system. At Monday’s City Council meeting, Interim City Manager Mike Murphy announced that arrest report data now will include race and gender. “Immediately after the initial launch, we worked toward what our initial intent was — to include the demographic data,” Murphy said. Earlier this month, Police Chief RaShall Brackney held a press conference to discuss changes to the department and the data system, which provides information on individual arrests, such as the name of the person arrested, when and where they were apprehended and the charge. It is updated daily.
The Daily Progress

Your taxes go toward their salaries.  Every day, dozens of government employees act as the cogs that keep local government running. They pick up your trash, patrol the streets and make decisions that could impact the economy. Within those systematic ecosystems, though, a few top earners exist. Their duties are widespread and often cross over multiple government departments.  To keep our readers informed, The News Leader compiled the top 10 earners from the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro and Augusta County
The News Leader

Hopewell's former voter registrar wants a court to force the Hopewell Electoral Board to walk back her dismissal earlier this month, saying the city violated the terms of the agreement she signed when she took the job by not officially providing her reasons for the firing. Yolanda W. Stokes filed a 14-page petition in Hopewell Circuit Court late Friday demanding that the HEB be ordered to “withdraw the actions” taken by them and to prohibit the HEB from “taking any actions to enforce the removal” of her as the city registrar. Stokes also wants a jury to hear her petition. Stokes was fired by the board March 6 at the end of an emergency meeting. The board did not specify official reasons for the dismissal, other than Vice Chairman Sheila Mickelson being quoted in media reports that Stokes “was not a good fit” for the job. Stokes maintains she has not received official cause from the board for her dismissal, other than the media quote from the board’s vice chairman.
The Progress-Index


stories of national interest

Forty years ago, C-Span went live with its first public broadcast from the House of Representatives chamber, giving Americans a television-shaped window into how lawmakers behave in the ornate room where history is often made. Ushering in the C-Span era on March 19, 1979, was Al Gore, then a representative from Tennessee, who had pushed for the network’s access to the Capitol. “From this day forward,” Mr. Gore said at the time, “every member of this body must ask himself or herself, how many Americans are listening to the debates which are made?” Since that day, when C-Span debuted with four employees, the network has become a mainstay in American politics. We spoke with Susan Swain, one of C-Span’s two chief executives, about the birth of the network, Washington’s initial resistance to being caught on camera and how the network has adapted to the social media age.
The New York Times






editorials & columns



Freedom of Information laws are fundamental to our democracy and are something that should certainly be celebrated and continuously strengthened. Unfortunately, many lawmakers have tried to weaken this in recent years. Thankfully, those effort have been turned back by those who want to ensure government and other agencies act responsibly and above reproach. FOIA allows us to know how taxpayer money is being spent, how court proceedings are moving along, how police and law enforcement cases develop, how public agencies and local government determine policy and much, much more. It is more important now than ever that the people be able to hold their government accountable. FOIA ensures that is possible.
The Winchester Sun