Transparency News 6/15/17

Thursday, June 15, 2017

State and Local Stories
The Lynchburg City Schools interim superintendent search will be conducted without public input. Interviews will be conducted in closed meetings at undisclosed locations over the next two weeks. That decision was made public at a one-minute school board meeting Wednesday called to announce the board’s formal entry into a closed meeting to conduct interviews. No other action was taken.
News & Advance

Half of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors failed to change the roster of a local advisory panel Tuesday. Supervisors who tried to appoint a resident to the Social Services Board claimed that at least two members of the panel also have served far longer than allowed under Virginia rules. District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey made a motion to appoint Frances Bowman to the Social Services Board. District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz seconded the motion. Ordinarily supervisors discuss appointments in closed session and then take action on recommendations as part of their consent agenda in an open meeting. This proposed appointment came on as a separate action item on the supervisors’ regular meeting agenda.
Northern Virginia Daily

National Stories

An American communications company in 2014 balked at an “expansion” of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program, but was ordered to comply by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a newly declassified document shows. The previously secret fight, which played out quietly amid a public debate over surveillance that was prompted by the 2013 leaks by the intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden, was described in a 37-page ruling issued in 2014 by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer. The ruling was heavily redacted when it was made public this week. Its uncensored portions did not say whether the challenge was brought by a telecommunications provider like AT&T that is part of the program’s “upstream” system or by a Silicon Valley internet company like Google that is part of the program’s “Prism” system.  It also did not say what the “expansion” was or what legal arguments the company had made about it.
New York Times

A lawyer in South Carolina has filed a motion attempting to block public access to a search warrant and related court documents in the sexual molestation case involving Fayetteville car dealer Mike Lallier. Lallier was charged in September with molesting a 15-year-old boy at the Darlington Raceway during the Bojangles’ 500 NASCAR race. Lallier co-owns Reed-Lallier Chevrolet on Raeford Road and is a former chairman of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission. The motion for a protective discovery order, filed Tuesday by lawyer Paul Cannarella, seeks to prohibit the courts or the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office “from disclosing search warrant material until this case is disposed of because the material relates to details of potential evidence.” Unlike North Carolina, search warrants and related documents are not obtainable through the clerks of court in South Carolina. To obtain copies, newspapers are typically required to file a request under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act.
Fayetteville Observer

Missouri’s governor may not have anything to hide, but he sometimes acts as if he does. Eric Greitens, a Republican and a former Navy SEAL, won the governorship last year in his first bid for public office. Much of his campaign funding came from donors whose identities were never disclosed, including a “dark money” group called LG PAC that spent $4 million on his behalf. Greitens also received a check for nearly $2 million -- then the record donation in Missouri -- from a group called SEALs for Truth. The way the money was shifted around means that the original source remains unknown in both cases. It’s not just advocates on the left who are concerned. Some Republican senators upset about Greitens’ use of a dark money group forced debate about requiring such groups to disclose their donors at the end of the legislative session last month.  But money isn’t the only issue. Greitens campaigned on the idea of openness, but he forced members of his transition team to sign gag orders banning them from speaking about their work. When he appears in public, Greitens sometimes brushes off reporters by telling them to make a request through staff, who in turn often tell them their requests aren’t a priority.


At one point during a Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council discussion about closed meetings of public bodies, a distinguished lobbyist for local government argued secrecy is necessary to, as he put it, keep the stupid in the room. Turns out, we could tell him something about that. The closed door session at which three Peninsula Airport Commissioners decided to guarantee a loan to People Express Airlines makes clear the appalling risks when public bodies make decisions in secret. That deal cost $4.5 million in public funds. We never had a chance to understand the concerns of the only commissioner to express his opposition, behind those closed doors, because when it came time to vote all he felt he could do in public was abstain. The problem with keeping the stupid in the room is that it doesn't give the people who may know better, and the public at large, the chance to say: "That's stupid. Don't do it."
Daily Press