Transparency News 3/7/19



March 7, 2019


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

state & local news stories




"The company will receive a two-day heads up about any information before its released 'to allow Amazon to take such steps as it deems appropriate.'”

If you're in Charlottesville on March 25, consider coming by the FOIA workshop being put on by the city, Smart Cville and VCOG. It's free and open to the public, but you do have to register.

Arlington officials have, at last, unveiled a detailed version of the county’s proposed incentive package designed to bring Amazon to the county. A draft copy of the county’s “Economic Development Incentive Grant Agreement” posted online for the first time today (Tuesday) sketches out the exact amount of office space Amazon will need to occupy in Arlington in order to win $23 million in incentive cash over the next 15 years. The proposed deal requires Amazon to regularly release tax data to the county, but Arlington will be barred from releasing that information publicly, except as part of “composite” statistics. Arlington will be able to release other information that company submits to county officials in response to Freedom of Information Act requests — however, the company will receive a two-day heads up about any information before its released “to allow Amazon to take such steps as it deems appropriate.” The company extracted a similar concession from state officials, and such a procedure is not unusual for major employers in states across the country.

The Hopewell Electoral Board voted unanimously Wednesday to oust city General Registrar Yolanda Stokes, who had come under fire over how City Council candidates’ names would appear on the ballot for last November’s election. The Electoral Board met behind closed doors for more than an hour at the Appomattox Regional Library before returning to open session and voting 3-0 to remove Stokes from the post she had held since May. The board’s decision came less than a week after a Hopewell Circuit Court judge ordered that two suspended Democratic members of the board — Herbert F. Townes Jr. and David W. Silvestro — be removed from the panel. The judge’s ruling came after a civil trial last week over litigation brought by state elections officials who argued that the two should be removed because of a series of election-related controversies.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The three finalists for Charlottesville city manager made their case in public Wednesday. The City Council conducted interviews with the candidates in front of about 100 people at the Jefferson School. The city received 37 applications and the finalists are Tarron Richardson, city manager of DeSoto, Texas; Powhatan County Administrator Ted Voorhees; and Mike Mallinoff, former county administrator of Charles County, Maryland. Each candidate was asked the same questions, which focused on transparency, affordability and racial healing.
The Daily Progress

Cherie Tamson was watching the Danville City Council on River City TV the night of its Feb 19 meeting when she realized something wasn’t right. She was a passenger riding in a car on U.S. 29, watching the meeting on her iPhone on the way from having dinner in Chatham. The next day, she was almost 100-percent sure the city had not followed state law for advertising a public hearingbefore voting on an agenda item that previous night. It was a vote to establish the Danville Neighborhood Development Corporation as the city’s land-bank entity. She paid close attention to the vote because she thinks taxpayers should be watchful whenever government agencies dabble in the real estate market. So she emailed the city attorney the next day, Feb. 20, and asked about newspaper publication dates.
Register & Bee


stories of national interest

A South Carolina judge has denied a request by The State Newspaper and other S.C. media organizations to make public the financial records of S.C. House Republicans. Fifth Circuit Court Judge Robert Hood ruled the legislative caucus — made up of 79 Republicans, almost two-thirds of the 124-member House — is not a “public body” subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The State and other S.C. media sued for caucus records handed over to State Law Enforcement Division investigators related to a State House public corruption probe.
The State

President Trump on Wednesday weakened a rule that required the government to annually make public its estimates of civilian bystanders killed in airstrikes outside conventional war zones — increasing the secrecy that cloaks one of the most contentious aspects of the fight against terrorists. In an executive order, Mr. Trump revoked a disclosure requirement that President Barack Obama imposed in July 2016. 
The New York Times





Be a sponsor of VCOG's annual conference: $50, $100, $250...every bit helps.
Click here.



editorials & columns



What should we make of the State Water Control Board’s surprising decision not to hold a hearing on whether to revoke the water certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline? We say “surprising” because in December the board — also surprisingly — voted 4-3 to hold a special meeting to set in motion just such a hearing. Then last Friday, the board voted unanimously not to do anything. What happened? Well, a closed-door meeting with an assistant attorney general happened. Afterwards, the board announced that, on the advice of counsel, it had concluded it did not have authority to revoke the certification, after all. Something here doesn’t feel right.
The Roanoke Times