Transparency News 6/14/13

Friday, June 14, 2013


  State and Local Stories

Two days after a 21-year-old Crozet man was shot dead by an Albemarle police officer on June 8, officials finally released his name. Neither Albemarle police nor Virginia State Police, which is investigating the case, responded to a request for the name of the officer who used lethal force. That's not too much of a surprise in Albemarle County, where if you shoot someone and are not charged, your secret is pretty much safe. The Albemarle County Police Department has developed a practice of protecting the identities of shooters, and they say they're backed up by the Freedom of Information Act.
The Hook

Some members of the community called on Isle of Wight School Board member Herb DeGroft to resign over racist emails he exchanged with other county officials, while one citizen professed confidence in DeGroft at Thursday's Isle of Wight School Board meeting. DeGroft has withdrawn from the November election for his School Board seat but so far has refused to resign.
Daily Press

No, Louise Lucas is not trapped in France. That's the claim in an email purportedly sent by the Portsmouth state senator seeking $2,000 to help extricate her from being waylaid abroad without cash or a cellphone. The message sent Thursday to Lucas' contacts is a scam, the latest episode in a hacking hassle the Democrat says she has been dealing with for months.

Virginia Republicans said Thursday that the Democratic state senator calling for a state investigation into how Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office has handled a federal gas royalties lawsuit is alsothe person with the most to gain from a prolonged court case. Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Lebanon, is an official of the Abingdon-based bank holding the escrow account with nearly $28 million in royalties. He should have mentioned that he had a conflict of interest when he jumped into the political fray over the case, GOP leaders said. “The longer this case goes on the larger that account and those interest payments grow,” Virginia Republican Party spokesman Garren Shipley said in a telephone news conference. “Why didn’t Phil Puckett tell you guys that he had an interest in this?”
Herald Courier

Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore spoke during the Citizens Comment period at Monday night’s city council meeting, which incited a call to order from Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn. McLemore came down from his seat as Ward 3 councilman and spoke as a private citizen. “It is a sad state of our local government when an elected official as myself is forced to speak during citizens’ time to comment on concerns or notify the public regarding city-related business,” he said. McLemore continued saying he had several statements that concerned him. “As to allegations in The Tidewater News and conduct unbecoming a councilman by my colleague, I emphatically deny any involvement, participation, organization, orchestration or membership with any disgruntled group including the one led by Bishop Rev. Dr. [Linwood] Johnson claiming to represent any citizens of Franklin for personal gain or anyone planning or for participating in any picketing or boycotts whatsoever.” McLemore was referring to an email received at the newspaper last week and an article written about same, stating McLemore had called for picketing of “council members Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess’s job and business and a boycott of Mayor Ashburn’s business.”
Tidewater Review

National Stories

In a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Americans for Limited Government, the Internal Revenue Service revealed this month that 201 of its employees work full-time on union activities. “A lot of people are not aware that under federal law, a federal agency is allowed to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union that has provisions where employees of the agency, in this case the IRS, are allowed to do union work on the taxpayer’s time and get paid for it,” ALG president and Nathan Mehrens explained in an interview with The Daily Caller.
Daily Caller

The Berkeley County, S.C., School Board doesn’t want to hear any more about a state investigation into the district’s $198 million bond campaign. So, at a meeting this week, they cut off a former board member when he tried to talk about it. In doing so, they violated the First and 14th amendments’ rights of free speech and the state Freedom of Information Act, S.C. Press Association lawyer Jay Bender said. “The board seems to have committed an error in two ways,” he said. “One, by adopting a policy secretly, and two, by attempting to suppress speech which the board has decided it does not like.”
Charleston Post & Courier

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday that Congress would consider legislation to sharply limit the access that private contractors have to the nation’s most sensitive intelligence programs.
New York Times

The U.S. Supreme Court moved quickly on Thursday to respond to a recent district judge's decision that struck down the federal law banning demonstrations on the grounds of the court.  With the approval of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., court marshal Pamela Talkin promulgated a new regulation that invokes a different law to prohibit "demonstrations" on court grounds. The regulation includes "picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers." It adds that "casual use by visitors or tourists" is not covered by the regulation.
National Law Journal

A filmmaker is suing to make the song "Happy Birthday to You" free for everyone to use.  The plaintiff, Good Morning to You Productions Corp., a New York-based company that is making a documentary about the song, said it belongs in the public domain.
Los Angeles Times

The director of the NSA told reporters on Thursday that he soon wants to declassify and make public some details of his agency’s surveillance programs, but that he wants to do so judiciously as to avoid threatening national security. “We have pledged to be as transparent as possible in this case and we want to do that. We want to provide the American people the information. I think it’s important that you have that information but we don’t want to risk American lives in doing that,” Gen. Keith Alexander, who also heads U.S. Cyber Command, said after leaving a closed-door briefing with lawmakers on the House Intelligence panel.

Members of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education deny that three of their members’ meetings one-on-one with each of the state’s college and university presidents were in violation of open meeting laws. “This was not a meeting authorized by the board,” Board President Duaine Espegard said. “This was a listening meeting.”
Bismarck Tribune

A University of Wisconsin-Platteville engineering student anticipating a new seat on the University of Wisconsin System's Board of Regents was renounced at the eleventh hour by Gov. Scott Walker, whowithdrew the young man's appointment after finding out he had signed a petition as an 18-year-old freshman calling for the governor's recall. Asked if he routinely checked potential appointees against the database of petition signers, Walker said, "I don't do anything in that regard."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel