Transparency News 5/20/14

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

State and Local Stories

Richmond’s top financial administrator was in line to receive nearly $400,000 in additional compensation after Chief Administrative Officer Byron C. Marshall modified her employment benefits on her way out, according to a report from the City Auditor’s Office. City Auditor/Inspector General Umesh Dalal recommended that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office review the matter to determine if there was any criminal liability for what Dalal deemed to be a “unique transaction.”

Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University have made another top 25 list — their presidents are among the best-paid chief executives of public institutions. Retiring Virginia Tech President Charles Steger has slipped out of the top 10 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual report, which found an overall 5 percent increase nationally in total compensation for presidents. A lower bonus payment put Steger at 12th, followed by VCU’s Michael Rao at 21st and UVa’s Teresa Sullivan at 24th.
Roanoke Times

A federal judge said he expected to rule Tuesday whether to toss out federal corruption charges against former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife. During a Monday hearing, defense teams argued that the McDonnells neither promised nor performed any “official acts” for Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the Richmond area businessman who is said to have lavished gifts and loans on the couple in exchange for their help. If the case does go forward, the defense said, the couple should be tried separately so that Maureen McDonnell could freely testify that she kept her husband in the dark about some things Williams gave her.
Washington Post

National Stories

In a legal victory for supporters of capital punishment, the Georgia Supreme Court on Mondayupheld a law allowing the state to block from public view certain details about how it administers the death penalty, including the sources of execution drugs. In a 5-to-2 ruling that also voided a stay of execution for Warren Lee Hill Jr., whose lawyers contend he is intellectually disabled, the elected court said that the Georgia authorities could keep private information that would identify, according to the law, “any person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds or prescribes the drugs, medical supplies or medical equipment utilized in the execution of a death sentence.”
New York Times

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case from a former air marshal who argued that he was fired for alerting reporters that armed, undercover marshals were being pulled from some flights. Robert MacLean was fired in 2006 after telling reporters in 2003 that the Transportation Security Administration was temporarily suspending having air marshals aboard Las Vegas flights. A personnel board upheld the firing. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned the board's decision in April 2013 and ordered the board to reconsider his dismissal.
USA Today

After months of clamoring, the MH370 raw satellite data that families have been demanding may soon be publicized. Until now, Inmarsat -- the company whose satellites communicated with the missing plane in its last hours -- has declined to release it. But on Tuesday, Inmarsat and Malaysian authorities said they are trying to make the raw data accessible.

The federal government would need a warrant from a judge if it wants the cooperation of California officials in searching residents' cellphone and computer records, under a bill making its way through the state legislature. The bill, which passed the state Senate with just one opposing vote on Monday, was introduced in the wake of information leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showing massive internal surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA.


Reporter Jeff Branscome reported on a discussion about credit card spending by Spotsylvania County officials. Spotsylvania Supervisor Timothy McLaughlin suggested that monthly county credit card statements be posted on Spotsylvania’s website. “If you want to be transparent, I would like to see that happen,” he said. Supervisor Gary Skinner, however, said that recommendation would result in more work for county staff. “My concern would be when you put it on a public website … who’s going to answer all of those questions that you’re going to get?” Skinner asked. The more information public agencies put online, the fewer questions employees will have to answer. Public records are compiled and filed away by public agencies every day.  Taxpayers’ dollars paid to have those records compiled. There should be an easy way for them to see what they bought.
Dick Hammerstrom, Free Lance-Star