Transparency News 5/1/14

Thursday, May 1, 2014

State and Local Stories

Jane Bethel helped suspended Norfolk city government employees write grievances before she herself was fired after she secretly recorded a senior manager. Now in the midst of the grievance process herself, Bethel also is on the ballot for mayor in Tuesday's election, challenging Mayor Paul Fraim and political consultant Michael Muhammad.  "I've gotten 13 people their jobs back that were suspended pending termination," she said. "I'm a person who believes in truth, justice and ethical behavior."

Virginia Intermont College officials were notified this week that they cannot sell the musical archives of the late Twin City native “Tennessee Ernie” Ford. The private liberal arts school currently faces a myriad of financial challenges and appears on the brink of closing its doors. VI officials recently sought to sell the material or offer it to the highest bidder. However, an attorney for the Ford family sent VI a letter reciting the terms of the original agreement that the archives cannot be sold or transferred without approval from Ford’s estate.
Herald Courier

Preservation Virginia has presented its 10th consecutive list of Virginia's Most Endangered Historic Sites to raise awareness of places that face imminent or sustained threats to their integrity or survival. The statewide preservation organization creates the annual listing to bring attention to these properties at risk and to encourage individuals and organizations to advocate for the protection and preservation of Virginia's historic places.

National Stories

Many people are voicing growing concerns about the West Virginia Supreme Court’s recent ruling that allows government agencies to charge a retrieval fee for Freedom of Information Act requests. Count Patrick McGinley, a WVU law professor since 1975, among them. “I felt it was absolutely clear that the only charge public bodies could make was for the actual cost of the document, not search and retrieval fees,” McGinley said. Prior to the ruling, agencies were allowed to charge for replication, or copying, costs of documents in a FOIA request, but the Supreme Court’s 4-1 ruling now allows agencies to tack on additional search or retrieval fees.
Beckley Register-Herald

A controversial double execution in Oklahoma was called off Tuesday night after the first inmate to receive an experimental three-drug cocktail writhed and grimaced on the gurney, struggled to lift his head and died of a heart attack more than 40 minutes later, officials and witnesses said. Clayton Lockett's botched death occurred after a constitutional showdown over Oklahoma's execution secrecy laws. It is likely to provoke strong criticism from death penalty opponents at a time when similar policies on lethal injections have come under attack.

A museum dedicated to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington on Wednesday unveiled online registries where survivors, rescue workers and witnesses can share their memories. Three registries launched with a limited number of entries in the hopes that users will continue to create profiles and share firsthand accounts of the attacks, according to officials of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which is located in New York on the site of the fallen World Trade Center Twin Towers.


Running for public office takes courage, confidence and the committed support of family and friends. The endeavor is not easy — walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors takes plenty of time and effort — nor is it cheap, since campaign signs do not grow on trees. So as we head down the stretch toward Election Day, we extend our gratitude to those who volunteered for the experience and seek a place in local government. And we encourage other civic-minded citizens to lend their time and talent to the calling of public service, since our communities will surely benefit as a result.
Daily Press

Linking both [the Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling] episodes is the outcry they engendered, but also the small and vituperative support both men retain. Some of that is rank racism. Some of it is a perversion of the rigid politics of the day. Both are fading practices based on untenable ideas. Some of it, too, is based on an enduring misreading of the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." Despite the cries that these men have had their First Amendment rights infringed, there's simply no fact in that idea. No government entity has attempted to silence either man. In fact, the First Amendment is alive and well in both episodes. The Constitution quite clearly protects Bundy's retrograde ideas, and Sterling's. But it also protects the colossal criticism both men have received and well deserved.