Transparency News 4/1/19



April 1, 2019


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

state & local news stories




It's no joke. Today only you can register for VCOG's conference for just $25.
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The FOIA Council's has released its 2019 training calendar.  There are 15 opportunities for records, law enforcement and meetings training that run through November. Click on the one you’re interested to register.

Charlottesville paid more than $4,000 to bring candidates for city manager to in-person interviews in February and March.  The city reimbursed $4,195.86 for travel and other expenses on top of the $25,000 contract the city has entered with S. Renee Narloch and Associates to find its next top administrator, according to documents obtained through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The city reimbursed $2,962.94 for trips by two of its finalists. The third didn’t submit any receipts. The city received 37 applications for the position and publicly named three finalists.
The Daily Progress

The office of Attorney General Mark Herring advised a state board investigating jail deaths that it was not obligated to allow state auditors into closed meetings, alarming a lawmaker who wants the General Assembly next week to make clear the legislature’s watchdog arm will get access. Asked by email why the attorney general’s office believed the Board of Corrections could exclude JLARC staff from its closed meetings, Herring press secretary Charlotte Gomer declined to answer. She noted that the governor’s amendment, if passed, “would settle the issue.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch

As more people choose to communicate electronically, town officials want to increase their use of social media to keep residents updated on local matters affecting them.  Mayor Patricia Dickinson uses a Facebook page. Other members of Berryville Town Council say they want to start communicating with people online, too, according to Town Manager Keith Dalton. The council recently adopted a policy to guide local officials — elected and hired — on using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms appropriately. Under the policy, council members and town employees can have social media sites on which they can mention their municipal affiliations and discuss town business. Yet they are encouraged to include a statement along the lines of, “The postings on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions or positions of the Berryville Town Council or Town of Berryville.” Officials’ postings to such sites must be professional. They cannot use a site for personal business or to conduct transactions. Because any comments they make are subject to provisions of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), they are responsible for maintaining their sites in accordance with relevant laws.
The Winchester Star

A Charlottesville federal judge will allow an Albemarle County man’s defamation suit against InfoWars owner Alex Jones and others to proceed. Brennan Gilmore, an activist and former Foreign Service officer, sued Jones, InfoWars and several others in March 2018 for defamation. After Gilmore witnessed and filmed the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer, the defendants started spreading conspiracies about him, leading to death threats against him and his family, according to the suit.
The Roanoke Times

Warren County Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. on Wednesday impaneled a special grand jury to investigate potential widespread criminal activity among local governmental entities. A court order states that the special grand jury will “investigate and report on alleged misfeasance and malfeasance including the embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds” by parties including but not limited to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, the Town of Front Royal, the County of Warren, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Warren County Public Schools. The order adds that the investigation will include "any criminal activities engaged in by elected or appointed officials" of those entities along with any "private entities or individuals who engaged in criminal activity with the aforementioned public bodies or their employees" during the tenure of former EDA director Jennifer McDonald.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

A federal judge ordered the FBI Thursday to turn over former Director James Comey’s memos, including the notes that he took during his infamous one-on-one meetings with President Trump. Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of CNN, USA Today, Judicial Watch, and other outlets, telling the DOJ that it must hand over the Comey memos to the court for review and possible public release. The memos include the notes that Comey said he leaked to the media to spark the appointment of a special counsel.
Washington Examiner

The agency responsible for attracting business to Tennessee hasworked behind the scenes to dismantle state legislation that could increase transparency and accountability for business grants and tax breaks. Officials from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, with the backing of Gov. Bill Lee, pushed to strip nearly every significant provision from the House version of the FACTS Act, a bill designed to better protect public funds and allow taxpayers to see which companies receive tax breaks.
The Tennesseean

Oyster Bay’s inspector general can now enter into nondisclosure agreements with private companies under a measure adopted by the town board. Board members on Tuesday approved the measure, which did not appear on the meeting agenda, that allows the agreements known as NDAs, subject to approval from the town attorney’s office. Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said in an email such nondisclosure agreements don’t shield information from being disclosed to the public under the state Freedom of Information Law. “FOIL trumps NDAs,” Freeman said.

Willie McCoy appeared to be asleep in his car at a Taco Bell drive-through in Vallejo, Calif., when police officers, responding to a 911 call, arrived to check on him. Minutes later, Mr. McCoy, 20, was shot and killed. The police said he had woken up and was reaching for a gun on his lap, but Mr. McCoy’s friends and family members demanded more transparency. On Friday, the Vallejo Police Department released footage from the body-worn cameras of six officers who fired their weapons during the shooting, which occurred Feb. 9. The police said in a statement last week that the Solano County district attorney’s office was investigating the episode, adding that the department was releasing the videos because it wanted “to address the questions that have been raised to help the public digest both the media reports and to facilitate a community dialogue about the facts of this incident.
The New York Times