Transparency News 5/7/13


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

State and Local Stories

Times-Dispatch: The Virginia Capitol will be featured Sunday night on a PBS program highlighting "Ten Buildings That Changed America."The one-hour program will air at 10 p.m. The state Capitol, which features Thomas Jefferson's Classical Revival-style design, is home to the oldest continuous, English-speaking lawmaking body in the New World. The design has influenced scores of other buildings, from the U.S. Capitol to banks across the country. The Capitol was first occupied in 1788.

Daily Progress: Traffic in the 900 block of Rugby Road in Charlottesville came to a halt Monday night during a Virginia State Police operation. Agents with state police blocked access to the road between Preston Avenue and Rosser Avenue until 10:30 p.m. Authorities at the scene said they were under orders not to provide any details to the public.

Virginian-Pilot: Norfolk Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot took the witness stand at the Bank of the Commonwealth fraud trial Monday,repeatedly denying that he had taken a bribe from local businessman Tommy Arney and rebuffing assertions from a prosecutor that he had tried to involve Arney in two business ventures.


National Stories

Government secrecy reaches a new level this week in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who sent 700,000 classified U.S. documents to the WikiLeaks website. A military judge, Col. Denise Lind, has ordered what prosecutors say is an unprecedented closed hearing Wednesday at Fort Meade to help her decide how much of Manning’s upcoming trial should be closed to protect national security.
First Amendment Center

Public officials in South Carolina are using the public’s money to build a public bridge. But the names of people hoping to influence the plans to rebuild the Back River Bridge? That’s private. So says the S.C. Department of Transportation’s Freedom of Information Act office.
Savannah Morning News

Harrisburg, Penn., has become the first municipality ever in the history of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to be charged for making misleading statements outside its official securities documents. The SEC charged the City of Harrisburg on Monday for making misleading material representations about the financial health of the city - securities fraud - over a period of years as the city's incinerator financing deteriorated.
Harrisburg Patriot News

As if the Mark Sanford saga could get any crazier: Cameras apparently will be allowed when the ex-South Carolina governor appears in court Thursday on charges that he trespassed at his ex-wife's house. Jenny Sanford had asked for cameras and recording devices to be banned from the Charleston County Family Court but her filing was dismissed Monday, according to the Post and Courier newspaper.
USA Today

Early last month, state lawyers and election officials around the country dialed into a conference call to talk about how to deal with the flood of secret money that played an unprecedented role in the 2012 election. The discussion, which included officials from California, New York, Alaska and Maine, was a first step toward a collaborative effort to force tax-exempt advocacy organizations and trade associations out of the shadows. The unusual initiative was driven by the lack of progress at the federal level in pushing those groups to disclose their contributors if they engage in campaigns, as candidates and political action committees are required to do.
McClatchy News



Paul Fletcher, Virginia Lawyers Weekly: The high court’s reasoning in McBurney v. Young apparently hinged on economics. Virginia can draw a valid distinction between residents and nonresidents because the people of the commonwealth are the ones who pay the fixed costs required for agency recordkeeping. And Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli crowed afterwards that the decision was “a victory for Virginia taxpayers.” You can ignore the AG’s comment as election-year pablum but you can’t ignore the general disdain that the high court seems to have toward FOIA.

Daily Press: As we have noted before on this page, while technology plays a pivotal role in combating crime and terrorism in the 21st century, crucial safeguards must be established to make sure we do not sacrifice our liberties. Increasingly in public settings, many of our daily movements are recorded, documented and passed onto third parties without our knowledge. We are long overdue to have a clear-eyed conversation, devoid of emotional instinct, about what red lines are needed to confirm who gets access to this information, how it can be stored and in what context can it be used. For example, the Virginia State Police currently keeps information captured by automatic license-plate scanners for 30 days in their server. The scanners are used to help police locate possibly stolen vehicles. But the majority of data is from people who aren't suspected in any crime.

Roger Chesley, Virginian-Pilot: School officials worried they would be advocating teen pregnancy if they allowed a graduating senior to pose with her infant son in the 2013 yearbook. Their heavy-handed treatment of Caitlin Tiller, however, was prudish and insensitive.