Transparency News, 5/6/21


 May 6, 2021
follow us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram


state & local news stories

JAUNT, a public-private transportation company in Charlottesville, has released documents tied to a lawsuit settlement. Radio host Rob Schilling sued the company in January after it denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about its former CEO’s spending. “I had received information that there were some problems going on at JAUNT with some of the spending and some of the accounting over there and it was unverified, but it appeared to be accurate information based on the way it was presented to me,” Schilling said. After a few months in court, Schilling and JAUNT have reached a settlement. As part of the settlement, the company is required to release information from its 2020 audit, as well as cover $4,000 of Schilling’s attorney fees.

A Bristol, Virginia police officer who has been charged with murder is out on bond, according to court records. A grand jury on Monday indicted officer Johnathan Brown on charges of murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a murder, and malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle. The Bristol, Virginia Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Brown turned himself in Tuesday and immediately bonded out of jail without having to submit a mugshot. News Channel 11 submitted a Freedom of Information Act Request for body camera footage but it was denied by Virginia State Police. “It is being withheld under an exemption in FOIA and all the exemptions in FOIA for the most part are discretionary,” Rhyne said. “So, when a law enforcement agency is not releasing body camera footage because of an ongoing investigation they’re making a choice not to release it. I’m not saying it’s the wrong choice but it’s the choice there’s no prohibition about releasing that footage.”

Senator Tim Kaine was greeted in the city today with masked smiles, elbow bumps, and a City Hall lobby decorated with protestors opposing the recent decision Staunton City Council made to eliminate the public's ability to call in and speak during public hearings in city council meetings.  Kaine had planned a three-day visit to Staunton and surrounding areas and spent Wednesday taking time to meet with city officials and tour local businesses downtown. On Tuesday, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy & Protection (ICAP) and disAbility Law Center of Virginia (dLCV) sent a letter addressed to Oakes to the entire city council, citing disability law and first amendment concerns stemming from the recent vote.  According to Oakes, the letter has been turned over to the City Attorney and the council will be reconsidering the decision to eliminate public speaking at council meetings via telephone during their meetings in May.  "It was never truly off the table," Oakes said, and explained that the conversation will continue on whether to bring back phone calls into public hearings.
News Leader


editorials & opinion
Every Virginian — certainly every resident in Hampton Roads — should want a clear-eyed, unbiased assessment of the tragic 2019 shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. One wonders, then, why anyone would want the state commission conducting the investigation to begin with members who, by their affiliation, could cast doubt on the integrity of that work. Those with conflicts of interest can best serve the victims and their families by recusing themselves. The commission is slated to have 21 members, but already four appointments to the panel have connections to the Virginia Beach Police Department or the city of Virginia Beach. That calls into question their ability to serve impartially. While it makes sense to have people with law enforcement experience on the panel, it needn’t be anyone connected to the responding law enforcement agencies that day. According to Pilot reporting, those authorized to make nominations were instructed to make every effort “to ensure that appointees do not have a conflict of interest yet can provide the best insight into their specialization.” From the look of things, no effort was made to do so and that is, quite simply, shameful.
The Virginian-Pilot