Transparency News 4/17/19



April 17, 2019


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state & local news stories


A legal opinion from the state’s Division of Legislative Services didn’t settle the question of whether the Tourism Council is a public body. Now the question will go to the Attorney General’s office, Tourism Council board chairman and York supervisor Jeff Wassmer said during the Tourism Council’s monthly meeting Tuesday. “There’s been a little bit of discussion about whether we’re a public or private body,” he said. “We have operated in a very transparent and open way.” The Tourism Council had asked the Legislative Services Department to provide clarity on whether the Tourism Council is a public body, and therefore legally subject to requirements that include holding open meetings and fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests. The response the Tourism Council got Tuesday didn’t provide that clarity. “The opinion was that on some actions we take we are private, in some actions we are public. That really doesn’t help us too much,” Wassmer said.
The Virginia Gazette

Danville City Council voted 8-0 to forgive $911,512 owed to the city by its land purchasing arm, the Industrial Development Authority. The money is part of a $1.6 million loan the city provided in 2005 to the IDA, which in turn loaned it to Telvista to buy equipment and furnishings for its facility at 119 Cane Creek Blvd. in Airside Industrial Park. Telvista closed its facility in March 2018, and the Norfolk-based PRA Group is purchasing the property — owned by the IDA — to open up a debt collection center promised to bring 500 jobs and $15 million in investment to the area. But before PRA could buy the property, the city had to forgive the $911,512 owed by the IDA to the city in order to remove a lien on the real estate. Doing so will enable PRA to get a clear title to the property. “Economic development is not for the faint of heart,” Larking said during the meeting Tuesday night. “Businesses succeed and they fail sometimes.”
Register & Bee

When the FBI Central Records Complex opens about a year from now at 57 Millwood Pike (U.S. 50) in Frederick County, it will feature a robotic workforce never used before by the federal government, according to an online job listing for the facility. According to the listing, the FBI is hiring “many” entry-level records conversion technicians nationwide, but specifically lists Winchester as the job location. Salaries range from $42,308 to $55,006, the listing states. Applicants must be able to get a top secret security clearance. The job of a technician “supports the storage and retrieval of records in the ASRS as well as the digitization process of paper records, evidentiary material, and other hard-copy materials,” the listing states.
The Winchester Star

With the recent revelation that ITFederal will not open at the Avtex Superfund site, Front Royal may have to pay back a $650,000 grant it was given for phase one of the West Main Street extension project, which is nearing completion. Brown said the revelation that ITFederal will not open at the site presented the town with a problem because the grant was given on the condition that there must be documentation of the company investing at least $3.25 million in capital outlay. He said capital outlay could include land improvements, building costs or the installation of industrial equipment. Town Manager Joe Waltz said the EDA needs to “step up” because “I do believe that they left us holding the bag here.” He said this “is somewhat of an item that we definitely need to keep in the forefront as we move forward with the EDA.” Town Attorney Doug Napier said any money the town has to pay back to VDOT will hopefully be recouped from the EDA in any potential lawsuits the town may file against the EDA. This is not the first financial misstep between the EDA and town, as the EDA owes the town at least $291,000 stemming from overpayments related to debt service. Wilson said that the town is still attempting to figure out whether there is more money it is owed.
The Northern Virginia Daily

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Virginia State Police were at the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s offices Tuesday morning. Officers and officials were mum regarding the reason for the law enforcement presence.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

One of Utah’s largest police departments is facing a backlash as they consider whether to discontinue body cameras due to cost concerns. Dozens of people have asked Unified Police of Salt Lake County to keep them, including some whose loved ones have been shot by police. One of them was Gina Thayne, whose nephew Dillon Taylor was killed by Salt Lake City officer in 2014 shooting that was found legally justified. “I have a lot of faith in the body cameras because it brings out dignity — or lack of dignity — on both sides,” Thayne said, according to the Deseret News.
The Associated Press





editorials & columns


Things were heated [at a Portsmouth council meeting over the police chief's departure], and at least one speaker used a swear word and a racial slur during the comment period. As a result, his comments were censored from the city’s official video of the meeting and a disclaimer added saying “broadcasting obscene content is prohibited by law” and claiming the censoring was due to the city’s “commitment to excellence.”  So the council doesn’t want its delicate citizenry to be subjected to naughty language. At least it was a decision to censor objectionable content.   But then members went a step further and voted this month to stop broadcasting public comments altogether.   It’s hard to follow the twisted logic that says removing public comments from council meeting broadcasts will satisfy concerns that City Hall isn’t being honest with citizens. It’s a decision more likely to inflame rather than soothe tensions. 
The Virginian-Pilot