Transparency News, 5/10/21


 May 10, 2021
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state & local news stories
The dysfunction of Staunton City Council was exposed in an email exchange this Wednesday after months of interrupted sentences, shrill arguments during council meetings and miscommunication that resulted in a lawsuit and thousands of dollars in legal fines. The News Leader reached out to Mayor Andrea Oakes and the rest of the city council to request comments about the recent letter the ACLU sent to the council citing first amendment concerns about council's decision to eliminate the public's ability to call in and speak at public hearings. The request led to a series of emails — with The News Leader copied— that offered unedited insight into the relationships between members of the city council. The emails illustrate the tension within city council. They are far from the only example. Other council members have fought over rules of order and actions taken by individual members, sometimes in much more public scenarios than private, cc'd emails.  
News Leader
stories from around the country
The judge who ruled last week to delay the public release of bodycam footage in the Andrew Brown Jr. case has filed the order for release of footage to Brown’s family, nine days after his original ruling. It’s unclear what caused the delay in the May 6 filing by Judge Jeffrey Foster, a visiting judge from Pitt County, but the timing could mean the family might not see the footage for another 10 days. Brown’s family had anticipated seeing the footage by Saturday, however, the sheriff said in a statement Friday that the family would be shown the footage Tuesday. Foster’s orders say only Brown’s immediate family and one lawyer can view the footage, and they cannot record it for dissemination.

The White House on Friday released visitor logs from President Biden’s first weeks in office, but admitted that some entries will remain secret. White House visitor logs have the power to expose outside influence at the highest levels of government, particularly by unsavory figures. But the White House said it will remove names from periodic disclosures at its own discretion. “In keeping with the Obama-Biden Administration’s policy, select records that implicate privacy, national security, or other concerns will be withheld,” the White House said in a release. Just 400 entries are listed in the first batch of visitor logs posted online by the White House. The entries are from January and don’t include “virtual” visitors who chatted with officials over Zoom, which has become popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York Post

editorials & opinion
The situation in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, serves as further evidence of the need for clear and firm guidance about the release of evidence pertaining to law enforcement investigations, and that those rules be tilted in favor of public access. North Carolina law allows for the release of body camera footage with a judge’s approval. But on April 28, Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster declined a request to make the video public, saying it would be shown to Brown’s family within 10 days and could be released in full when the investigation concludes. It is reasonable to believe that this footage, showing a man’s violent death, isn’t fit for public consumption, but that is no reason to keep it from public view. It’s also possible that releasing the video would escalate unrest, which nobody wants. But more likely the footage would provide answers to the numerous lingering questions surrounding this case. Without it, speculation will proliferate, and the community will be worse for it. The only justification for withholding it is if release risks compromising the investigation into the incident. The pursuit of justice should be the guiding principle.
The Virginian-Pilot