Transparency News 5/28/19



May 28, 2019


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state & local news stories


Seeking the release of documents related to the $1.4 billion Richmond Coliseum redevelopment proposal, a leading critic of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration is scheduled to appear in court. Paul Goldman filed a complaint in Richmond Circuit Court on May 16 after the Stoney administration estimated it would cost $2,018.12 to review and provide 2,643 documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request he submitted last month. The Stoney administration provided the documents Goldman is seeking to the Richmond Times-Dispatch last year in response to a FOIA request; the city charged The Times-Dispatch $269. Goldman asked The Times-Dispatch to provide him with the documents it received from the city, but The Times-Dispatch declined because the newspaper has a longstanding policy of not releasing unpublished material gathered as part of its reporting and researching. A hearing on Goldman’s most recent filing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Although the number of people stopped and arrested by Charlottesville police appears to be on the decline, black people are still far more likely to encounter an officer than are white people in the city. Charlottesville Police Department data on investigative detentions for February through April, commonly called “stop-and-frisk,” shows some of the lowest numbers of any three-month stretch since data started being reported in September.
The Daily Progress

Jennifer McDonald, the former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority executive director, was arrested Friday night on two felony counts of fraud and two felony counts of embezzlement, according to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail’s website.
The Northern Virginia Daily

Richmond’s City Auditor is recommending a cap on the number of overtime hours city employees can rack up. That guidance comes after an audit released in January documented excessive overtime hours in a number of city departments. The audit found that 57 City of Richmond employees had accrued more than 700 overtime hours each in 2017. One employee in the Department of Public Works had more than 1,800 overtime hours.


stories of national interest

On Friday, three days before Memorial Day, attorneys general for 47 states wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to automatically forgive student loans for eligible disabled veterans.  The Department of Education has identified more than 42,000 veterans who qualify for a federal program known as Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, or TPD, that offers to relieve borrowers from repaying certain government student loans. These veterans, the letter says, shoulder over $1 billion in education debt that could be forgiven. To get the benefit, veterans must first apply for the program. According to information obtained by the group Veterans Education Success through a Freedom of Information Act request, almost 60 percent of eligible veterans had defaulted on a loan payment as of April 2018. Yet only about 20 percent had applied to the loan forgiveness program.  The attorneys general want that to change.

Mississippi State University research center NSPARC, whose founder calls himself “one of the best data scientists in the world,” manages Mississippi’s public jobs database.  But when Mississippi Today requested data for job listings for a six-month period, the center said the request would take 200 hours to fill. It sent a cost estimate Thursday of $27,750 — $138.75 per hour — and refused to further discuss the request Friday.  Mississippi Today’s open records request asks for raw data for all job postings — which is available for each posting on the state agency website — to broadly analyze the opportunities of Mississippians.
Mississippi Today





editorials & columns


We now know with precise clarity that Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry planned to create a public event at the sheriff’s office for a private reason: He wants to be re-elected to a job he has held for three terms. The emails that Perry exchanged with his public-information officer, Capt. Wayne Davis, with county managers and, of course, his fellow law enforcement officers show that ruse was the rule when Perry called a press conference for April 9. A single email sent to Davis on the morning of that event was the most revealing piece of news uncovered in this unsightly, unethical and, as one expert tells us, unlawful manipulation of public property and people for personal gain:  That the sheriff defends his actions is only one sad aspect of this ethical entanglement. We equally are disappointed that no other official has suggested he went too far and that those law enforcement officers who showed up to support Perry misrepresented how they spent their days. They are all complicit.
Martinsville Bulletin