Transparency News 5/19/14

Monday, May 19, 2014

State and Local Stories

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is making “a high priority” of finding a new state inspector general to police the administration of state government, a spokesman said Friday. Michael F.A. Morehart will retire Friday, leaving a vacancy at the top of an agency that could be asked to investigate a stalled $1.4 billion contract to build a toll expressway along U.S. 460 between Petersburg and Suffolk.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are due in court Monday morning to argue several important motions in the federal case against them. For starters, the couple has asked a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss most of the charges against them — a common request not often granted in trials of this magnitude. They've also asked to be tried separately, instead of as a couple. That would allow the McDonnells to testify on each other's behalf more easily. Defense briefs indicate Maureen McDonnell would testify that she was the primary actor in many of the couple's dealings with Jonnie Williams Sr., the former CEO of a dietary supplement maker, and the man who showered the couple with more than $165,000 in gifts and loans.
Daily Press

National Stories

Newly released internal Internal Revenue Service emails obtained by the group Judicial Watch document active direction by the federal tax agency's headquarters in targeting Tea Party and conservative nonprofit applicants during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. The emails were obtained by the conservative non-profit in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Washington Examiner

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker opened the monthly Tribal Council meeting last week with a call for more transparency in government and strengthening of the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act, according to a tribe news release. A Tribal Council work group will review potential changes to the law, then share its findings at the council’s Rules Committee meeting on May 28.
(Fort Smith) Times Record

In game theory, the term “prisoner’s dilemma” refers to a scenario where two prisoners are separately deciding whether to betray the other and testify that the other committed a crime: each party's outcome (and possible punishment) depends on what the other side independently chooses. Thanks to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), prisoner’s dilemma has come to public finance. This spring, the SEC announced the Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation (MCDC), a self-reporting initiative designed to clean the municipal securities market’s slate of any cases where an entity may have holes in the financial reporting requirements it makes to investors.

Attorneys for the family of Joe Paterno and Penn State University are set to argue today whether Pepper Hamilton should be forced to turn over documents related to the creation of the Freeh report. The Centre County Court of Common Pleas is expected to hold oral arguments in Paterno v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, with issues set to focus on whether the plaintiffs should be able to subpoena Pepper Hamilton for documents created by Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan, which merged with Pepper Hamilton in September 2012. The firm was retained by Penn State in 2011 to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Jerry Sandusky and the university's alleged failure to report the abuse.
The Legal Intelligencer



Fees are a never-ending struggle between government and records requesters. Virginia FOIA says: government can “make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in  accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records.” The Virginia Supreme Court just confirmed that government can charge for the time it takes to review -- and, by implication, redact and decide that a record is exempt  -- so now there’s a little more guidance (for better or for worse) on when a charge for labor can be imposed. But four calls I’ve received recently illustrate how there is still a long way to go in understanding what is meant by “actual cost.” As these calls point out, here’s a short list of what government should not to do:

Virginia’s sorry history of gerrymandering has no defensible rationale. Replacing the current system with one in which an independent, nonpartisan commission drew the lines would make a vast improvement. Such a replacement requires the approval of the lawmakers who benefit from the status quo, which makes change highly unlikely. The only current remedy lies in the courts. But the courts traditionally have viewed partisan advantage and incumbent protection as legitimate reasons for drawing district lines. So the only way for complainants to reach a remedy is through subterfuge. That is what is happening now in a case challenging Virginia’s congressional boundaries.

Sen. Mark Warner gets a high-five for sponsoring the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which passed both houses of Congress and now has gained the president’s signature. DATA is the nation’s first comprehensive legislation requiring federal agencies to post their financial information in an understandable form for the public.
Daily Progress

Unlike many politicians today who do all they can to keep their controversial positions out of the press, Roanoke County Supervisor Al Bedrosian invites the opportunity to be heard — even relishes it — as he did on May 12 in front of the Roanoke County Administration Building (“Bedrosian sticks to position on prayer,” May 13 news story). Residents of Roanoke County should be grateful for his transparency because what we learned that afternoon sheds light on the paralysis that has struck the Roanoke County board.
Roanoke Times