Transparency News 5/16/18



May 16, 2018


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state & local news stories


"The Sheriff’s Office asked them not to release any information on Genari’s cause of death."

The cause of 17-year-old Sarah Rose Genari’s death is not being revealed publicly by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office or the state Medical Examiner’s office in Manassas. Both agencies recently denied Freedom of Information requests submitted by The Northern Virginia Daily regarding the case. According to Sheriff’s Office news releases, Genari’s body was found May 8 after a search of the Granny Smith Road area on Apple Mountain after she was last seen walking away from her home on April 26. An FOIA request sent Thursday to the Sheriff’s Office that was denied the next day by Maj. Michael Arnold requested the incident report, any other documents related to the case and any alerts sent to other agencies or organizations regarding the case. Jennifer Starkey, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner’s office, said by the phone Thursday that the Sheriff’s Office asked them not to release any information on Genari’s cause of death. Starkey said the only information that could be revealed is that Genari’s body was at the office.
Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

Attorneys argued in court Monday about whether a law shielding the identity of lethal injection team members trumps Nebraska’s public records law. Lancaster County District Judge Jodi Nelson took the matter under advisement, promising a decision “as quickly as I can” on the trio of lawsuits heard during an afternoon trial. The suits pit the Omaha World-Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star and the ACLU of Nebraska against the State Department of Correctional Services over the release of documents related to how the state obtained drugs to be used for lethal injection. The three entities went to court after corrections officials withheld documents that each had sought in separate freedom of information requests.
Omaha World-Herald

An Orange County (California) Superior Court judge last week denied a school board member's petition for a permanent restraining order against a Huntington Beach blogger. Attorney Jeffrey W. Shields filed the petition on behalf of Ocean View School District trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin, 46, who alleged in court documents that Charles Keeler Johnson, 56, has threatened her on social media and at school board meetings, causing her to "fear for my own safety and for that of my immediate family members." Judge Timothy J. Stafford, who approved the temporary order March 26, called the school board member's petition "weak," adding that Clayton-Tarvin knew the consequences of elected office.
Los Angeles Times

A judge has ruled that the Kentucky House of Representatives violated the state’s Open Meetings Act with a closed-door conference in August where lawmakers from both parties huddled to discuss their plans to deal with the state’s pension crisis. The Bluegrass Institute’s Center for Open Government, based in Lexington, challenged the private House meeting, arguing that the public should be allowed to watch whenever lawmakers collectively meet to conduct business. The attorney general — whose opinion carries the force of law on open meetings and open records — sided with the Bluegrass Institute last November. House leaders appealed the attorney general's decision by suing in Franklin Circuit Court, but Judge Thomas Wingate ruled against them. "The Kentucky Supreme Court held that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret," Wingate wrote in his May 7 order.
Lexington Herald-Leader

A judge is deciding whether Brigham Young University’s police department should be required to comply with Utah’s open records laws. The law enforcement arm of the private university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has contended that it is exempt from state records laws — and the Utah Records Committee agreed. The Salt Lake Tribune in 2016 filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court, arguing that the police force should be open to public records requests because it has “full-spectrum” law enforcement authority under state law. This means BYU officers may stop, search, arrest and use physical force against people, just as any other sworn officer in the state — but currently BYU police do not face the same requirements for transparency.
The Salt Lake Tribune

48-page newsprint candidate-endorsement publication mailed to voters statewide is exempt from campaign finance reporting rules under Idaho law because it qualifies as a newspaper, the Idaho Attorney General’s office has ruled. That’s because Idaho law is narrower than federal law, wrote Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane, classifying such publications as newspapers as long as they’re not owned or controlled by a candidate or political party. “Nothing indicates such ownership and control to this office,” Kane wrote in a four-page legal opinion addressed to Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney.
Idaho Press-Tribune