Transparency News, 6/15/21


June 15, 2021
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state & local news stories
A workshop on HB 2004
Access to inactive criminal investigative files
June 17
Register here
Yesterday the FOIA Council subcommittee on records met to hear a presentation on the various ways states across the country handle charges for public records and then hear public comment (the materials were supported by research VCOG shared with the council). Several speakers in favor of fee reform (or at least open to possibilities) spoke, from the usuals like VCOG and the press association, to representatives from the Virginia Latino Board, the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project, a newspaper editor, a mother, a student and the association of counties.
More voices commented, too, on the proposal to provide access to police disciplinary records. The proponent of that bill, Del. Mike Mullin, vowed to talk with various law enforcement reps at the meeting to see where there might be common ground.
Nothing was decided other than that both bills/concepts are works in progress. Here are thoughts on what we'd like to see in a fee reform bill.

An outside law firm hired by the General Assembly has found that the office of Gov. Ralph Northam (D) did not interfere with the release of a controversial inspector general's report outlining policy infractions by the Virginia Parole Board in granting parole last year to a man convicted of killing a police officer in 1979. The outside report also found that the state’s Office of Inspector General was justified in taking a look at the parole board’s behavior in the case, based on hotline complaints, but said the investigator who prepared the report was biased and did not use thorough practices.
The Washington Post
During its review, Nixon Peabody unearthed an email suggesting it was Assistant Attorney General Michael Jagels who advised OSIG on its Parole Board investigation and suggested blacking out almost the entire report on Martin’s release. “I believe Jagels had suggested redacting everything after the first sentence of the entire report,” Deputy Inspector General Corrine Louden said. “Also the conclusion should just read ‘The allegations…REDACTED…are substantiated.’”
Virginia Mercury
Read the report on the Virginia Mercury's website


stories from around the country

The leading Democrat behind a bill seeking to give government officials in Delaware more power to hide public documents from the public says she is pumping the brakes on the legislation after criticism over its potential repercussions. "Out of respect to our shared interest in an open and transparent (government), I have paused this legislation to continue conversations," Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, D-Talleyville, wrote in a Twitter thread Saturday. "I believe we can find a solution that preserves the sanctity of our FOIA process while addressing its abuse."
The News Journal




editorials & opinion


A recent report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation sheds new light on the motivation of the Virginia Beach Public Utilities worker who killed 12 and injured four during a 2019 shooting at the city’s municipal center. The FBI’s conclusions neatly mirror Virginian-Pilot reporting in late 2019, which found the shooter was isolated, paranoid and repeatedly facing workplace issues. Craddock believed he was underpaid and not appreciated, and that an expensive on-the-job mistake might have been the proverbial “last straw” for him. This report also nods to complaints voiced by some of the victims’ families that the city should have been more forthcoming about documented problems with Craddock’s work and some of the perceived grievances he expressed prior to the shooting. That discrepancy is one reason why a state-level examination, now underway, is so important.
The Virginian-Pilot

One of the hidden casualties of the pandemic is that trust in local government, long the strong foundation of governance in the United States, is showing cracks. There’s time to patch the problem before the fractures spread further, but it will take some doing to prevent the hyperpartisanship of American government from eroding it away. We know that distrust in American government is bad. But we also know that there are some things that help earn trust, especially at the retail level, where the individual interactions between local government and officials help reverse the tide. Research by McKinsey, in fact, shows that two-thirds of trust in government can be explained by the experience people have in interacting with government officials, and at the local level — from putting out fires to picking up the trash to running parks — that interaction is often very good.
Donald F. Kettl, Governing