Transparency News 5/15/19



May 15, 2019


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state & local news stories


Charlottesville City Council provided its first public feedback on proposed bylaws of the initial Police Civilian Review Board on Tuesday. Councilors discussed how the board would operate, whether it should receive two staff members and who would serve during a work session. Later on Tuesday, the board, which is tasked with creating bylaws for a permanent oversight panel, held its regular meeting to continue its work. Meeting procedures would be covered through bylaws, and funding is an administrative decision for the budgeting process. Councilors also discussed how much and what type of police department data would be legally available. City Attorney John Blair said the board likely couldn’t access juvenile records, but he hadn’t fully examined state law regarding access.
The Daily Progress

Despite a proposed sharp increase in water rates, only a few citizens showed up Monday night to hear about what to expect next year in the town's 2020 fiscal year budget. Town Council members are set to vote on the combined $7,113,821 budget next month.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

Seeking to shore up support among the Republican caucus last week, Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada assured colleagues “there’s nothing else to come out” in the text message scandal that threatens to topple him from the chamber’s top leadership position. But new revelations emerged on Monday, as WTVF’s Phil Williams reported that Casada and his now former chief of staff exchanged text messages about whether two young women were at the legal age of consent. Cade Cothren, then the House GOP press secretary, sent a text to Casaba in August 2016 featuring a vide of two women dancing in his apartment. “R they 21?” wrote Casada, then the House Republican Caucus chairman. “It only takes 18,” responded Cothren, who was named Casada’s chief of staff after his election as speaker in January. Casada’s answer: “Lol!!! And true!”
The Tennessee Journal

Proposed changes to the District’s Freedom of Information Act will not be one of the issues the D.C. Council considers during its first round of budget debates Tuesday. WAMU first reported Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s plan to change the District’s open records law in early May. The FOIA proposal was tucked into a 160-page budget plan published by the Council this month.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis met with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last Friday to discuss the revelation in Robert Mueller’s report that “at least one” Florida county’s election information was accessed by Russian hackers in 2016. DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that he had been briefed on that breach — which he said actually happened in two counties in Florida — but that he couldn’t share which counties had been the target. “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a [non]disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said, emphasizing that he “would be willing to name it” but “they asked me to sign it so I’m going to respect their wishes.”




editorials & columns


Internal affairs secrecy contributes to a “code of silence” or “blue wall” in law enforcement, a Denver district court judge wrote in a 2005 decision, “by creating the expectation that things will be kept in house and away from objective outsiders.” Transparency, on the other hand, enhances public confidence in a police department, concluded Judge Catherine A. Lemon upon ordering the release of an internal affairs file. Knowing they will be scrutinized “makes investigators do a better job and makes them and the department more accountable to the public.” Colorado House Bill 19-1119, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law April 12 by Gov. Jared Polis, will penetrate Colorado’s “blue wall” by opening records on completed internal affairs investigations. it’s unlikely we would have this important new law without research conducted by University of Denver Sturm College of Law professor Margaret Kwoka and DU law students Bridget DuPey and Christopher McMichael. Their 2018 report, “Access Denied,” provided the hard evidence needed to convince state lawmakers that reforms were necessary. Kwoka, DuPey and McMichael requested internal affairs files from 43 law enforcement agencies across the state. Only two showed any willingness to release records to the public.
Jeff Roberts, Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition