Transparency News 6/10/19



June 10, 2019


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state & local news stories


“If you increase transparency and openness, there’s actually evidence that you will do better and not worse."


I had the privilege to talk about open government Friday
with delegates from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Israel
at the VCU Center for Cultural Experiences.

Several foundations associated with the University of Virginia are standing with the George Mason University Foundation’s effort to keep past donor contracts private. An amicus brief to the Supreme Court of Virginia — filed in May by UVa’s Alumni Association, the College Foundation, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the Darden School Foundation, the Law School Foundation and the University of Virginia Investment Management Company — argues that sharing contracts would chill fundraising efforts necessary to keep the university running. “The independence of university foundations allows them to be effective fundraisers; expansion of [the Virginia Freedom of Information Act] to encompass their activities would make fundraising cost more and achieve less,” the brief, written by lawyer John O’Herron, states. “At the outset, and contrary to the arguments of Appellants’ amici, exposure to public records laws like VFOIA would chill fundraising,” the brief states, later adding, “A judicial expansion of VFOIA would result in significant cost to the private foundations supporting public universities, decrease funds available to those institutions, and increase the cost of higher education in Virginia. It is likely that the long-term costs of such an expansion of the statute would number in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” But Jim Finkelstein, a professor emeritus at George Mason disagrees: “If you increase transparency and openness, there’s actually evidence that you will do better and not worse,” he said, referring to a 2018 study in the Journal of Accounting, Auditing and Finance that found that more transparent nonprofits received more contributions.
The Daily Progress
VCOG has posted this brief and others on its website.

The family of a 42-year-old woman who was killed when her colleague opened fire at the Municipal Center Friday is asking the city to release all records about the gunman and launch an external investigation into what happened. Virginia Beach attorney Kevin Martingayle emailed a letter to city officials and council members Monday evening on behalf of the family of Kate Nixon, who served as a Virginia Beach public utilities engineer for a decade.
The Virginian-Pilot

There will be more than eight students graduating from Armstrong High School on Sunday. Data presented to the Richmond School Board on May 20 showed that less than half of the school district’s 1,090 seniors were “on track” to graduate, meaning they had met all the state requirements for graduation at that point. According to the data, only eight of the 162 seniors, or 4.9%, from Armstrong had met all the requirements. In fact, more than 100 actually will. The number of on-track Armstrong students (8) was widely shared on social media and criticized for not painting a clearer picture of what exactly that meant. Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras apologized Thursday for how the data were presented to the School Board.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Roanoke City Public Schools will host a “meet the candidate” event at Patrick Henry High School on Monday night to introduce a candidate for the school’s principal. The name of the candidate will be released during the meeting, schools spokesman Justin McLeod said.
The Roanoke Times

Arlington County Board members on June 18 will consider raising the threshold for their own pay. Board members have only until July 1 to vote for any increase to the current maximum salary cap of $57,337 for board members and $63,071 for the chairman. If they fail to act before that date, the next chance to increase the cap will be 2023, based on requirements of state law. While County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey – who controls the agenda – said in January he had no interest in considering a pay raise in 2019, he apparently had a change of heart under prodding from board vice chairman Libby Garvey, who long has advocated for higher pay.


stories of national interest

The state of Alabama executed convicted murderer Christopher Price last week, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution. The action was not particularly unusual except for one thing — half of the briefs in the case were blacked out, so the public could not see them, and virtually all of the record in the case was sealed. It is rare for the Supreme Court to allow such deletions, and on Friday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and NPR filed a motion with the Supreme Court requesting it unseal the material that was blocked from public view. None of the information that has been sealed has anything to do with the defendant's guilt. Rather, the information involves the drugs and the protocol Alabama uses for executions. 

The Iowa Freedom of Information Council on Wednesday sued Polk County for records in a case involving the fatal shooting of a motorist by law enforcement in Altoona last year. The lawsuit asks a Polk County District Court judge to order the Polk County sheriff's office release the records related to a case in which Deputy Sheriff Ryan Phillips, 31, stopped a Wisconsin man in Altoona, ultimately fatally shooting him.


quote_2.jpg"The information involves the drugs and the protocol Alabama uses for executions."