Transparency News, 5/4/2022



May 4, 2022

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state & local news stories


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The Loudoun County School Board violated Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2021 a Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge ruled Friday, April 29, 2022 Specifically, Judge James Plowman ruled that the School Board violated Virginia law when it ended public comment and cleared public attendees from the premise and thereafter continued to conduct official business. The meeting, which occurred on June 22, 2021, previously gained national attention due to the controversial policies discussed at the meeting and the impassioned public comments by parents and citizens in response. The Court found no exigent circumstances or exceptions applied to mitigate the School Board’s violation of the Freedom of Information Act at the meeting and that shutting down of public comment and attendance at the meeting violated Virginia’s FOIA statute. 
EIN News (press release from the plaintiffs' law firm)

A Roanoke judge on Tuesday rejected a petition from The Roanoke Rambler’s founder asking Virginia Tech to comply with the state’s open records law. Henri Gendreau had requested two-weeks’ worth of emails sent to or from Justin Fuente, then Tech’s head football coach, regarding Isi Etute, a player who was suspended after being charged with the May 2021 murder of a Blacksburg man. The university declined to release any records, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law. When a government agency withholds any records, it must “identify with reasonable particularity the volume and subject matter of withheld records,” according to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Tech repeatedly declined to provide that information, and Gendreau filed a writ of mandamus in Roanoke City General District asking that the university comply. M. Hudson “Hud” McClanahan, a university lawyer, argued before Judge Francis Burkart on Tuesday that FERPA forbids the university from releasing any information associated with the former student’s name — including the volume and subject matter of any possible records.
The Roanoke Rambler

A member of the Buchanan County Board of Supervisors is charged with election fraud and embezzlement after a special grand jury on Monday handed down 82 felony indictments against him. Trey Adkins, a Democrat who first was elected to the board in 2011, is charged with felonies including 34 counts of making a false statement, 11 counts of violating absentee voting procedures, 11 counts of forging public records and eight counts of embezzling public money, according to a news release from Zack Stoots, the Russell County commonwealth’s attorney, who was brought in as special prosecutor in the case. The release does not provide any additional details about the charges, including any information about which election or elections were investigated or how much money Adkins is accused of taking, or from where. Stoots said his office will not be releasing any more information about the case.
Cardinal News

Video footage of the traffic stop of the man who died two weeks after an April 2 encounter with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office has been released by the Front Royal Police Department. Ralph Ennis, 77, died April 15 under hospice care following the traffic stop, according to the Warren County Sheriff's Office. Virginia State Police are investigating the traffic stop and the Sheriff's Office is convening a “board of inquiry” to review the use of force and make a recommendation of any disciplinary action, the Sheriff's Office has said. Warren County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Jeffrey Driskill stated by email that his agency was exempt from releasing the body camera footage under state code "where the release of criminal incident information is likely to jeopardize an ongoing investigation or prosecution." An officer with the Front Royal Police Department responded to the traffic stop and that footage was obtained by The Northern Virginia Daily through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Northern Virginia Daily

stories of national interest

Now that Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the breach of an initial draft majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, what happens next is a total mystery. There are virtually no precedents for Roberts’ plans to identify the 98-page document’s path from the high court to the pages of POLITICO, a disclosure he termed a “betrayal” of the institution’s trust. Supreme Court leak controversies have occasionally sparked national intrigue and even calls for federal investigations, but those calls haven’t resulted in any significant investigation. “We are very much in uncharted territory here,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley. “Never before, to my knowledge, has a Supreme Court opinion been leaked like this. So never before has there been an investigation like this.”

editorials & columns


The leak has obviously dinged the Supremes’ legal supremacy for the moment. They will recover. But the upside of the leak is grand. The public has gained a new awareness of where a court majority plans to take the nation after a half-century of legal abortion. Getting a two- or three-month preview of that plan in a midterm year straight from the horse’s pen amounts to a journalistic coup of the highest order. The government works to keep you in the dark. The press to shine the light. Heaven bless the press.
Jack Shafer, Politico