Transparency News 6/14/19



June 14, 2019


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state & local news stories


"The city withheld nine performance reviews, citing exemptions for personnel information. Police search warrants have also been sealed."

Officials in Virginia Beach pushed back on Thursday against what they described as “rumors, innuendo, conflicting theories and speculation” about last month’s mass shooting in a municipal building. But police in this coastal city of nearly half a million people were also no closer to offering a possible motive behind the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in 2019. And the family of one of the 12 people who died is demanding an independent investigation.The records that the city has released on Craddock have revealed little. In response to a records request from The Associated Press, the city said Craddock earned $83,283.20 a year. But the city withheld nine performance reviews, citing exemptions for personnel information. Police search warrants have also been sealed. And Craddock’s 2016 divorce filings were about as boilerplate as his resignation letter, citing “irreconcilable” differences.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
The city's top leader on Thursday released a statement saying that police have uncovered no evidence that the gunman in the mass shooting two weeks ago at the Municipal Center got into fights or was confrontational at work. City Manager Dave Hansen's statement directly disputes a New York Times report that said DeWayne Craddock had been involved in physical "scuffles" at work, including a "violent altercation on city grounds" before killing 12 people.  "The investigation has not uncovered evidence corroborating these allegations," Hansen wrote. Attorney Kevin Martingayle took issue with part of Hansen's statement that said the city has "demonstrated commitment to transparency." "The city should have no problem releasing 100% of the information the city has about the shooter," Martingayle said. "That is what it means to have a demonstrated commitment to transparency. You can’t say, 'we are committed to transparency' and not do the things we requested." The city can release all of Craddock's personnel information if it wanted to, but the law allows officials to withhold the information.  The city released Craddock's emailed resignation, but redacted the send and receive times as well as the recipients. A city attorney said the entire document is considered a personnel record and is subject to redaction under the state's Freedom of Information Act. The Police Department asked the city attorney's office to keep those portions confidential, the attorney said. 
The Virginian-Pilot

As he yelled and stomped around the lobby of a Norfolk Community Services Board building for nearly two hours, Michael Craig appeared “agitated” and “psychotic,” staffers who were there said later. According to an internal report on the incident recently obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, many of them recognized Craig as a potential danger before he beat another client into a coma in the lobby. Despite that, the report written by services board staff concludes Craig’s violent behavior was “unpredictable and random.” And despite the communication breakdowns and missteps recounted in the report, it absolves the agency’s staff of any negligence in the incident. When shown the report by The Pilot, the services board’s former compliance officer questioned how those conclusions can follow from a report filled with so many warning signs. The internal investigation was completed last year by Norfolk Community Services Board staff after Davis’ family filed a complaint of neglect on Nov. 16, the day after Craig and Davis met in the services board’s lobby. The report has not been made public and the city said it would charge The Pilot $34.96 for a redacted copy. The newspaper independently obtained an unredacted copy of the report and supporting documentation.
The Virginian-Pilot

Cherry Bekaert, the firm reviewing the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority's finances, states in a report detailing its findings that its investigation is incomplete and $14 million worth of questionable transactions have yet to be reviewed.  The filing states this meant Cherry Bekaert “was unable to complete all the procedures we considered necessary to fully investigate and examine certain EDA transactions that, based on evidence and belief, appear irregular and likely conceal additional defalcations.” The filing states that Cherry Bekaert could not review these questionable transactions due to "scope limitations" implemented by the EDA board and the board of supervisors. Three supervisors said during Thursday phone interviews that these limitations were the result of the EDA board and supervisors not wanting to pay Cherry Bekaert more money. 
The Northern Virginia Daily


editorials & columns

quote_3.jpg"When we were establishing that email is a public record under FOIA, there weren’t tons of email messages. It sounds silly now, but seriously."

In the early days of ubiquitous email use, we thought FOIA requests would be simplified. After all, email could be easily searched for and provided without making a pit-stop at the copier. Virginia FOIA allows the government to “make reasonable charges” for FOIA requests, “not to exceed its actual cost.”   That would include the cost of the copies, or — in the case of email — the price of a flash drive or CD to transfer files to. If that were all, and the cost of transferring 100 emails was the same as 1,000, then email truly would have been the godsend we thought it would be. However, FOIA charges can also include costs of “accessing, duplicating, supplying or searching for the requested records.” In practice that means that requesters are billed for the pro rated salary of the person (or people) performing any of those functions. When we were establishing that email is a public record under FOIA, there weren’t tons of email messages. It sounds silly now, but seriously.
Megan Rhyne, Virginia Mercury