Transparency News 6/14/18



June 14, 2018


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state & local news stories


"... his point wasn’t about someone moving but about the public’s perception the council wasn’t considering issues raised by residents."

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation (Midland, Michigan) and Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards launched a lawsuit today against Wayne State University for deliberately ignoring multiple Freedom of Information Act requests. The requested documents are related to questions about the qualifications and actions of Wayne State University personnel who were awarded millions of dollars in research funding after the water crisis became national news in early 2016. Edwards is a professor of environmental engineering and an expert on water treatment and corrosion and has become well known in Michigan for being one of the first to call attention to the problems with the Flint water system.
Mackinac Center

Days after two City Council members called for him to be fired, City Manager Dave Hansen released a statement Wednesday defending his conduct. The Virginian-Pilot reported this week that council members John Moss and Jessica Abbott wanted Hansen removed, in part because he had forwarded to developer Bruce Thompson an email Moss had sent to him about an upcoming closed-door City Council meeting on an Oceanfront pier project that Thompson was proposing. Hansen wrote in his statement that he did not reveal confidential information or briefing details to Thompson. The exchange was “a matter of public record,” he wrote, and he thought Thompson “had the right to know that the confidential terms of his proposal would be emerging in the public realm, most likely from the Councilmember.” “I regret that an email I forwarded to Bruce Thompson has become a distraction from the important work of this City Council,” Hansen wrote. He continued: “I do not believe the content of the email I forwarded compromised negotiations or eroded trust.”
The Virginian-Pilot

Sparks flew at the Bristol City Council meeting after Councilman Bill Hartley voiced concern over statements made last month by one resident who disagreed with the council’s decision to reduce school funding, prior to any votes on the budget. “When we had the public hearing at the high school, one lady who sat on the front row talked about how she was going to move to Tennessee. She also said, ‘I don’t know why I’m here talking because you all have already made up your minds.’ I’m not going to say whether she’s right or wrong, but, if that’s the perception, perception is reality, and we need to work on that,” Hartley said. “All of us have said we need people to participate and become engaged. If that’s the attitude they have, then we have to work on that.”  Councilman Doug Fleenor immediately disagreed. “People are moving in here. I’m sorry if somebody wants to move out; that’s their prerogative. We can’t be held up as council because one person says, ‘We’re gonna move out,’” Fleenor said. “To me that is ludicrous. … Bristol is moving in the right direction, period. Period.” Hartley said that his point wasn’t about someone moving but about the public’s perception the council wasn’t considering issues raised by residents.
Bristol Herald Courier

Two Leesburg Town Council members are disputing media reports and trying to distance themselves from recent statements related to allegations against Mayor Kelly Burk. Councilmen Ron Campbell and Josh Thiel, who jointly called a special council meeting on June 1 to address unsubstantiated claims of drunken driving and public intoxication against the mayor, have waged public relations campaigns denying statements made in reference to the allegations. Citing a voicemail left on Burk's cell phone, the Times-Mirror reported last week that Thiel called the effort part of a smear campaign. After the story was published, Thiel denied that he ever called the effort by Campbell a “smear campaign.” The newspaper is in possession of the voicemail left on Burk's cellphone where Thiel twice refers to the meeting as part of a “smear campaign.” (Link to voicemail in the story.)
Loudoun Times-Mirror



stories of national interest

The U.S. Justice Department's internal watchdog will release a long-awaited report on Thursday on the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe that she said contributed to her 2016 presidential election loss to Republican Donald Trump.

The former chief legal counsel at the University of Oklahoma has filed an Open Records Act lawsuit against the OU Foundation. He sued last week in Cleveland County District Court after the foundation denied his request for emails, documents and financial records related to the proposed University North Park development. "They are stonewalling me," Gipson told The Oklahoman Tuesday. "I just want to know where they've been spending the money." In denying Gipson's request, the foundation stated it is "separate and independent from the university.""Because the foundation is not a public body, internal documents and information maintained by the foundation are not public records," foundation president Guy Patton wrote May 30 in the denial. "The foundation exists to benefit the university but, in the final analysis, the foundation is answerable only to its donors — not to the university (or the general public)."



"The foundation exists to benefit the university but, in the final analysis, the foundation is answerable only to its donors — not to the university (or the general public)."


editorials & columns


Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen survived a new challenge this week to his continued employment as Virginia Beach city manager. But instead of basking in the glow of victory, he should be updating his résumé, LinkedIn entry and list of contacts. Councilman John Moss said Hansen has gone overboard in keeping developers in the loop on certain projects, The Pilot’s Alissa Skelton reported. His sharing of such details can be at cross-purposes with the council’s goals.
Roger Chesley, The Virginian-Pilot