Transparency News, 6/13/2022


June 13, 2022

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter
Contact us at


state & local news stories

"There has been a nationwide push for more transparency surrounding state budgets since the 1990s."

Lawmakers tried twice to make marijuana possession a misdemeanor during the regular legislative session this year. But when both bills failed, they used the back door. Two Democratic lawmakers played key roles in slipping the criminal statute into the budget — meant for laying out the state government’s finances. It was a horse trade at the 11th hour; one was carrying out the wishes of the Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office in exchange for legislation she wanted. The other introduced the provision to his three-person group hammering out budget details. Some lawmakers also slammed the budget committee for what they described as a lack of transparency. On the House floor, Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, said this year’s process was the most hidden “we could have imagined.” Lawmakers and the public have a valid reason to be upset, said Justin Kirkland, associate professor of politics and public policy at the University of Virginia. The purpose of a budget is to ensure government agencies have the funding needed to carry out their missions, he said, not to enact new crimes. There has been a nationwide push for more transparency surrounding state budgets since the 1990s, according to Benjamin Melusky, assistant professor of political science at Old Dominion University.
The Virginian-Pilot

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. resigned abruptly on Friday morning (June 10). Hutchings’ resignation comes after a tumultuous few weeks for the school division, following a closed-door session asking the School Board to not talk with the media and about the fatal stabbing death of a student. The resignation goes into effect August 31.

After eight years of trying, McDonough Toyota will be able to light up their entrance portal thanks to the passing of a set of amendments that would provide for separate zoning regulations for car dealerships at Thursday night’s city council meeting. The Staunton City Council went with a prosperous, influential business owner on this decision — despite protest — and even negotiated the terms of the decision with him (from the audience) during discussion of the vote. Council member Stephen Claffey cited a desire to send a message that “Staunton is open for business.” That “business-friendly” mentality was on display during the meeting, as vice mayor Mark Robertson took the highly unusual step of negotiating with Frank McDonough in council chambers during the meeting after council member Terry Holmes proposed the idea of setting a time period at night when the lighted portal would have to be turned off. Early on in the meeting, Robertson spoke to the public on the topic of “democracy,” saying that the 4-3 votes in council and the criticism they received were a result of democracy in action. He contended that it worked because the council would eventually have a majority that swung the other way. A few residents spoke about that notion, pointing out that democracy is also about serving the will of the people and the community.
News Leader

stories of national interest

"The New York Times has obtained from the National Archives less antiseptic photographs of the first prisoners who were brought from Afghanistan to the wartime prison in Cuba"

The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a circuit court order requiring the state's Division of Workforce Services to produce unredacted documents after it was determined the state agency couldn't apply for a law enforcement exemption to a Freedom of Information Act request. The state's highest court affirmed Thursday a Pulaski County Circuit Court decision that requires the Division of Workforce Services to produce the unredacted information requested by Legal Aid, a nonprofit, public interest law firm. On Oct. 13, 2020, Legal Aid submitted a request to the state's Division of Workforce Services seeking information about how the agency and its third party vendors determined eligibility for applicants of the Unemployment Insurance and/or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Programs. Legal Aid stated in its petition that it had made its FOIA request after hearing from many claimants that they were having trouble accessing their unemployment benefits, and had experienced monthlong delays in processing claims, wrongful denials, unsubstantiated allegations of fraud or overpaid benefits and lack of information about applicant procedures. The Division of Workforce Services argued that the circuit court erred by finding that certain information was not exempt from disclosure. The agency attempted to use the law enforcement exception or the competitive-advantage exception to combat the Freedom of Information Act request.
Arkansas Democrat Gazette

For 20 years, the United States military has tightly controlled what the world can see of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay. No images of prisoners struggling with guards. No hunger strikers being tackled, put into restraints and force-fed. Few faces of U.S. forces escorting captives in shackles. And in time, no photographs of detainees or their guards at all. In 2011, WikiLeaks released classified pictures of some prisoners from leaked intelligence dossiers, and lawyers provided some portraits of their clients taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross. But few other explicit images of the prisoners have become public since they began arriving at Guantánamo just months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Until now. Using the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Times has obtained from the National Archives less antiseptic photographs of the first prisoners who were brought from Afghanistan to the wartime prison in Cuba. Released this year, these pictures were taken by military photographers to show senior leaders, chief among them Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, an intimate view of the offshore detention and interrogation operation in its early stages.
The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reportedly investigated seven more child deaths due to the consumption of contaminated baby formula from the Michigan Abbott Nutrition plant than was previously known.  The Washington Post, citing newly released documents, said that the agency investigated reports that as many as nine children had died since March 2021. Previously, the FDA said two children had died and two were sickened after consuming formula that contained the bacterium cronobacter sakazakii.  The paper said the agency acknowledged Friday that it had received such additional reports, being unable to identify the source of the infection in all cases. 
Fox 5 DC

editorials & columns

"What's the point of representative democracy if there is an insistence on only 'one voice'?"

Here’s a story from ALXnow that talks about an Alexandria City Public Schools board retreat Thursday night where they discussed, among other things, a board conduct policy that would require members to defer inquiries on some topics to the board chair or superintendent and to circulate written comments to the board before submitting to media. There are many things in this story that make my head hurt. And hearing the news that the district’s superintendent resigned on Friday says to me that it made other people's heads hurt, too. ... I see this notion about working as a team/speaking with one voice a lot. ACPS isn't alone. But where does it come from? What's the point of representative democracy if there is an insistence on only "one voice"?
VCOG's Substack Newsletter