Transparency News 5/10/18



May 10, 2018


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state & local news stories


After discussing litigation in closed session Monday, the Charlottesville City Council approved a resolution granting the City Attorney’s Office blanket authority to retain outside legal counsel on a pro bono basis for any pending litigation or matter requiring legal advice. The council also was expected to discuss a matter related to the potential relocation of Albemarle County’s court facilities out of the city, but ran out of time, officials said after Monday’s meeting. “We’re still overwhelmed with matters concerning all the litigation we’re facing,” Councilor Kathy Galvin said. Presented by Galvin at the end of the meeting — without prior notice — the resolution allows the city to pay any costs for postage, copying documents or other materials any firm or attorney might incur in the course of pro bono work.
The Daily Progress


editorials & columns


State Department of Corrections officials don’t give a damn about what Virginians – that’s you and me – want to learn about a man who’s charged in a second case of child abuse. This time, a 2-year-old girl died after suffering horrific burns in Norfolk. The department routinely withholds records about probationers like 33-year-old John Tucker Hardee Sr. And oh, what a craven stance that is. Let me be clear: My point isn’t that probation officers necessarily did anything wrong in keeping tabs on the guy. It’s simply that citizens have too little to evaluate whether officials did everything right. Which suits the department just fine. As I’ve said before, the hurdles to getting information arise due to Virginia’s utterly feckless provisions on public transparency. The state’s Freedom of Information Act has way too many exemptions. Public agencies often can choose to release more than what they’re required to do, of course. Yet they nearly always withhold information when given the option. In fact, let’s just rename our state’s FOIA to what it’s actually become: The Freedom to Conceal Act.
Roger Chesley, The Virginian-Pilot

When the campaign to switch to an elected school board was mounted, “transparency” and “connection” between city residents and public school policies and practices were the main themes stressed by those in favor of electing members. But the low turnout of May 1 does not demonstrate any greater desire for connection. Another interpretation is, of course, that Norfolk residents are so pleased with our public schools that they saw no need to differentiate between different candidates. Did the 2014 move to a more direct democracy model improve the quality of public education?
Jim Oliver, The Virginian-Pilot