Transparency News 5/10/13


Friday, May 10, 2013

State and Local Stories

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Protecting the identity of someone posting an anonymous review on Yelp or any other website iscrucial to protecting speakers’ First Amendment rights and the public good, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and several news organizations argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the Virginia Court of Appeals. The Reporters Committee brief in Hadeed v. Yelp calls for a heightened standard of judicial review before anonymous online commenters are identified, and urges the court to revisit a lower court’s order compelling the disclosure of an anonymous criticism of the services of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning posted on the online review site Yelp.
Times-Dispatch: The superintendent for Roanoke City Public Schools has been named Virginia’s Superintendent of the Year. The Charlottesville-based Virginia Association of School Superintendents named Rita Bishop this year’s winner at its conference this week out of a field of seven other regional winners.

Virginian-Pilot: A former facilities maintenance supervisor for the city of Norfolk pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court Thursday for allowing Andrew Zoby Jr., the owner of a plumbing company, to submit fraudulent invoices to the city. Patrick R. Lambert, the city supervisor, received more than $17,000 worth of free plumbing work at his home and several of his rental properties, according to a statement of facts filed in court records.       National Stories

The District government violated its own open records law more than 900 times last year when its agencies took at least 26 days to respond to requests filed under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act, a city report shows. D.C. law requires agencies to respond within 15 business days to records requests, although they can impose a 10-day extension at the government's discretion. But a review by D.C. Secretary Cynthia Brock-Smith found that on 926 occasions during the past fiscal year, District government agencies waited at least 26 days to process FOIA requests. Under District law, records requests that are not answered during the mandated time period are deemed denied and subject to appeal or litigation, although city agencies often continue to process them.
The Examiner

A Web site run by a Texas law student has removed downloadable design files that can be used to make a gun with a 3-D printer after the State Department said that posting the files may violate arms-exporting regulations. In a letter to the student, Cody Wilson, a department official wrote that by posting the files, the site, defcad.orgmay have released “technical data” without authorization.
New York Times

A hacking incident involving Washington’s court system could affect upwards of a million people. The Administrative Office of the Courts announced that hackers breached its public website sometime last fall or early this year and social security and potentially driver license numbers were accessed. Here’s what the court system has established for certain: 94 social security numbers were obtained by hackers “fishing” for personal information. Court managers won’t release details about those 94 victims – however they will get a letter in the mail. An additional 160,000 social security numbers may have been compromised.

Frustrated by government restrictions surrounding the court martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Freedom of the Press Foundation has announced a crowdsourcing campaign to pay a professional court reporter to transcribe the trial. In a release Thursday, the organization said the stenographer will be credentialed by a media outlet, attend the trial and Freedom of the Press Foundation will make the transcripts available online.

A Georgia high school student was suspended after posting his principal's mugshot on the social media website Instagram and claiming she was arrested for committing the wrong crime. reports that Keandre Varner, a senior at Riverdale High School, posted the mugshot of principal Jamille Miller-Brown on his Instagram page and said he thought she had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Administrators at the school district told the station Miller-Brown was arrested in March after missing a court date for a speeding ticket.
FOX News

Last month, Sen. Mark Udall and a handful of other privacy-focused politicians persuaded the IRS to promise to cease warrantless searches of Americans' private correspondence. Now Udall, a Colorado Democrat, istaking aim at the Justice Department, which has claimed the right to conduct warrantless searches of Americans' e-mail, Facebook chats, and other private communications.

Public employees would be protected from punishment for providing information requested by Louisiana lawmakers under a bill approved by a House committee Wednesday. House Bill 387 by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, comes after some high-profile instances in which state officials who disagreed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lost their jobs. Schroder said his bill isn't a response to any specific incident but to concerns that employees were afraid to provide legislators with information that countered the administration's preferred policies.
Times Picayune

A California law that created an agency to oversee national health care reforms granted it broad authority to conceal spending on the contractors that will perform most of its functions, potentially shielding the public from seeing how hundreds of millions of dollars are spent. The degree of secrecy afforded Covered California appears unique among states attempting to establish their own health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama's signature health law.
Associated Press

Last August, New York Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said he welcomed an investigation into the Assembly’s handling of sexual harassment allegations brought by four women against one of its most prominent members, Vito J. Lopez. The facts, he said, “will show that any decision by the Assembly to enter into any settlement agreement was both legal and ethical.” Now, lawmakers appear to be having second thoughts. The Legislature sent a letter to the state’s ethics commission and demanded that it extensively edit an investigative report into the sexual harassment allegations, removing details about how Mr. Silver’s staff handled the scandal, according to several people who have seen the letter.
New York Times