Transparency News 5/10/19



May 10, 2019


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state & local news stories



Bristol officials were advised to stay silent during a community forum on local civic participation.

A public forum on city school issues didn’t unfold as intended Thursday, but organizers say it still helped inform those in attendance. The local chapter of Virginia Organizing, which sets up community events to increase local civic participation, scheduled the event at Highland View Elementary and invited all members of the City Council and School Board to participate. However, the four members of council and five board members remained silent throughout. They had been advised not to speak by City Manager Randy Eads — because doing so would break the law.
Bristol Herald Courier 

Former Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services Director Sherry Flanagan has filed a lawsuit seeking $4 million in damages from county officials and select local residents, court documents show. Flanagan’s lawyer, Tommy Strelka, contends in the lawsuit that Flanagan was defamed, deprived of due process and wrongfully terminated. She is suing Pittsylvania County, the members of the county’s social services board who initiated the vote to fire her in August, Henry Hurt and Vic Ingram. She headed the county DSS from 2009 until her dismissal in 2018.
Register & Bee 

The Frederick County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday night to maintain its current salaries for the upcoming fiscal year, despite not having a pay raise since 2001. The board’s vote will keep the chairman’s annual salary at $10,800, vice chairman at $10,200 and board members at $9,000. Red Bud District Supervisor Blaine Dunn, despite voting to maintain the current salaries, said the board should consider an increase during the next budget cycle to reflect the inflation that has occurred since 2001.
The Winchester Star


stories of national interest

Evanston, Illinois, City clerk Devon Reid filed a suit Tuesday against the city regarding his access to information as a FOIA officer. Reid was elected to his role as city clerk and FOIA officer two years ago and has been struggling to get unedited information from the city since, he told The Daily. The declaratory judgement complaint Reid filed is essentially asking the court to determine his rights in that role. “So I see my role as the FOIA officer, and especially as one of the only elected FOIA officers in the state… is to make sure that we are fighting for the public’s interest at all times and to make sure that all public records are accessible to the public,” Reid said. Reid’s lawyer, Ed Mullen, said the suit is asking the court to clarify the policy regarding Reid’s control of unredacted information and access to body camera and dash camera footage from the Evanston Police Department.
The Daily Northwestern 



The Evanston, Illinois, FOIA officer sued the city regarding his access to information -- including unredacted body cam footage.


editorials & columns


"Without that information, absent that data, it would be near impossible to identify endemic problems, bias or inequality in how that system works."

START WITH THE straightforward premise that citizens in a nation of laws should know as much as possible about how the justice system operates, including how it is administered. Without that information, absent that data, it would be near impossible to identify endemic problems, bias or inequality in how that system works, meaning potential flaws will never be adequately addressed or corrected. Such oversight is critical to assure that the judiciary in Virginia works effectively and equitably for all, regardless of where an individual may reside, their wealth, race, status, position or any other consideration. Trouble is — and pardon the irony of this — but it seems that the courts in Virginia believe themselves to be above the law. As such, it may be the law which needs to change.
The Virginian-Pilot