Transparency News 5/22/14

Thursday, May 22, 2014

State and Local Stories

The high fees that the Radford school system charges for copies of audio recordings of school board meetings continued to raise eyebrows this week. Newly elected school board member Carl Mitchell said Wednesday that the situation points to a lack of leadership and poor use of technology within the school system. Maria Everett, the executive director of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, wondered how Radford could justify billing one man hundreds of dollars for copying digital sound files that are public records.
Roanoke Times

The top enlisted leader at a Navy base in Virginia Beach was relieved of his duties after acknowledging he committed adultery, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Master Chief Petty Officer Yves Raynaud was relieved of his duties as command master chief at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in February. The base at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay is home to Navy special warfare forces as well as ships that transport Marines, among others. At the time, the Navy said in a statement that the installation's commander relieved Raynaud due to a loss of confidence in his ability to serve as the command's senior enlisted adviser.  Documents obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act show Raynaud developed a sexual relationship within the past year with a woman he met 20 years earlier while stationed in Japan. They did not specify if it was Raynaud, the woman or both who was married.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Tazewell County’s School Board Chairman has admitted that the board asked the current superintendent to resign and retracted remarks he made at the May 12 School Board meeting. David Woodard and other board members were asked by citizens to answer questions about the departure of Dr. Michaelene Meyer.  Following the meeting, Woodard commented that “the board is choosing to respect the superintendent by not airing dirty laundry or going into negative situations.” When the board meeting resumed May 20, Woodard apologized for that statement and said he was not aware of any dirty laundry or negative situations and asked that the statement be retracted. Woodard’s statement was entered into the minutes of the board meeting.  No other board members have commented publicly on the resignation. 
Herald Courier

State Sen. Bill Stanley, who is representing Pittsylvania County in its three-year court battle over prayer, said Tuesday he plans to file a motion asking a federal judge to lift the permanent injunction against the Board of Supervisors. The move follows a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month that Christian prayer at government meetings does not violate the Constitution. “Clearly we believe that Judge Urbanski’s permanent injunction against this board is unconstitutional,” Stanley said following a closed-door meeting with supervisors. “We are going to respectfully ask him to lift that ban.”

Virginia has quietly rehired a private law firm that state Attorney General Mark R. Herring fired a few days after taking office, a move that provides about two dozen former state employees with legal representation in the corruption trial of former governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s decision to put Baker & McKenzie back on the state payroll reverses the first headline-grabbing move of Herring’s short but high-profile tenure, during which the Democrat has upended the state’s position on gay marriage and its policy on college tuition charged to illegal immigrants.
Washington Post

National Stories

The conservative group Citizens United says it is suing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over his interpretation of how much information the organization is legally obliged to disclose about its donors. Citizens United President David Bossie said the legal challenge would be filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court and would be on behalf of the group and an affiliate, the Citizens United Foundation.

A PBS staffer was “clearly wrong” to try to stop a reporter from photographing hotel security detain a protester at PBS’ annual meeting last week, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler writes. PBS distributes news programs, and “many people understandably view it as a news and public affairs network, and so PBS needs to continue doing that and not get in the way of reporters or photographers covering news,” he writes. Dru Sefton, who reported on PBS’ interference for Current, tells Getler the staffer (whose identity Getler says he doesn’t know) “was frantically trying to contact Anne Bentley [PBS vice-president for communications] on her phone.” 

When Glenn Greenwald discovered last year that some of the NSA documents he’d received from Edward Snowden had been corrupted, he needed to retrieve copies from fellow journalist Laura Poitras in Berlin. They decided the safest way to transfer the sizable cache was to use a USB drive carried by hand to Greenwald’s home in Brazil. As a result, Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained at Heathrow, searched, and questioned for nine hours. That’s exactly the sort of ordeal Micah Lee, the staff technologist and resident crypto expert at Greenwald’s investigative news site The Intercept, hopes to render obsolete. On Tuesday he released Onionshare—simple, free software designed to let anyone send files securely and anonymously. After reading about Greenwald’s file transfer problem in Greenwald’s new book, Lee created the program as a way of sharing big data dumps via a direct channel encrypted and protected by the anonymity software Tor, making it far more difficult for eavesdroppers to determine who is sending what to whom.


The mayor’s office might be able to draw fine legal distinctions among the redevelopment plan’s different parts. From a broader good-government perspective, Loupassi’s argument is solid. Openly bid contracts are far more preferable than private deals — sweetheart or otherwise — sealed in smoke-filled rooms. Intrigue makes for compelling fiction — and that’s the realm in which it should stay.

There is another group central to the success of a candidate: The people who work on campaigns. These are the people who walk neighborhoods with and on behalf of the candidate. They knock on doors and distribute literature. They make calls to voters. They help identify those who support the candidate and try to get them to the polls. For local campaigns, with limited resources, they're mostly volunteers. Of course, given the opportunity, many of these volunteers would rather work on a more prestigious, better-funded campaign. Moving elections to November gives them that chance, which will deprive local candidates of a critical component of getting out their message.