Transparency News 6/16/14

Monday, June 16, 2014

State and Local Stories

A Virginia county board has voted to tear down one of the most infamous sites in the history of American politics and journalism: the parking garage where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward met with the source known as "Deep Throat" in the early days of the Watergate scandal.   The five-member Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday to allow developer Monday Properties to move ahead with a plan to replace the 1960s-era office building in Rosslyn, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., with a 28-story residential building of 274 units and a separate commercial building housing office and retail space. Monday Properties has said it hopes to start construction by 2017.  Board members told The Wall Street Journal that they would keep a historic marker added to the site in 2011 and work to find other ways to memorialize the site. 
Fox News

When federal regulators stood in the way of one of former Gov. Bob McDonnell's most-sought-after road projects - a new 55-mile highway through Southeastern Virginia - his administration went on the offensive. Their target: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an agency whose blessing was necessary for the road to proceed but which had expressed concerns for years over the wetlands it would destroy. Their plan: Tell the public that the Corps, an agency charged with balancing the protection of natural resources with development, was bent on destroying the environment - and several small towns to boot - by insisting on evaluating whether the old U.S. 460 could be improved rather than building an entirely new road. "Must develop a media response plan," Sean Connaughton, McDonnell's secretary of transportation, wrote in July 2013 to top staff in the Virginia Department of Transportation. "The message must be that the ACOE is trying to destroy southside Virginia along the existing 460 and destroy the environment," he wrote. The email and others released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request provide glimpses into the ill-fated effort to push through a heavily subsidized $1.4 billion contract in late 2012, and the McDonnell administration's subsequent scramble to pressure regulators into permitting the highway.

Cynthia D. Kinser, chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, is retiring this year after more than 16 years on the court. Kinser is the 25th chief justice of the court and the first woman to hold the post on the seven-member court, which has two other female justices. No retirement date was included in a two-paragraph announcement from the court.
Herald Courier

A last-minute vote for Amherst County supervisors to discuss school board candidates in a session closed to the public has one board member calling the action a manipulation of the system. The seven-member school board currently has two open positions for districts 1 and 3. The Amherst County Board of Supervisors publicly interviewed four candidates for those positions last Tuesday during a regular scheduled meeting. Supervisors met again on June 5, this time to interview candidates for the open county administrator position. According to the posted agenda, interviews would be conducted in closed session, after which the board would convene in open session to discuss matters of the board. During the open session, Chairman Don Kidd made a motion to amend the agenda for the closed session to include discussion on school board candidates. District 2 Supervisor Claudia Tucker said she objected to the amended item and questioned why discussion on school board candidates could not occur in open session. Following the meeting, Tucker said she contacted Maria Everett, executive director of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council. According to Tucker, Everett agreed that it was an inappropriate use of FOIA because there was strategy involved.
New Era Progress

Virginians are about to see the result of the state’s efforts to positively impact the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia — and those who care for them. This summer, officials will re-launch the website, “,” newly fortified with a research database and a statewide dementia network, enabling users to easily find memory-disorder clinics and learn about their services.
News & Advance

National Stories

After a drawn out legal battle over access to police car dashcam videos between TV station KOMO and the Seattle Police Department, the local news source received a favorable opinion from the Washington State Supreme Court. The court concluded the police should have released videos in response to two public records requests made by KOMO reporter Tracy Vedder. KOMO sued for access when the Department of Justice was investigating the Seattle Police Department for use of excessive force. “We’re ecstatic about this win, not just for KOMO but for all media across Washington and quite frankly for the citizens of our state,” KOMO news director Holly Gauntt said to TVSpy in an article. “It was blatantly unfair and unethical for the police department to try and keep potentially incriminating videos out of the public’s view.”
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

A Colorado district court judge on Wednesday rejected the defendant’s request to close the jury selection process for the Aurora theater shooting trial. Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour denied the request for complete closure to the public and the media and the prosecution’s request for partial closure of the selection process. Instead, the court opted to open the entire process, only withholding the names of prospective and seated jurors and the jury questionnaires. A coalition of media organizations formed immediately following the 2012 shooting, which includes The Associated Press, CNN, CBS and The Denver Post, had opposed the requests to close the selection process after the judge invited it to respond.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Photos of dead sea mammals and fish that were caught in fishing nets have outraged conservationists. Oceana, an international organization that focuses on ocean conservation, recently obtained these photos in February through a freedom of information request. The photos were taken over roughly the last ten years by federal employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, who were monitoring by-catch: fish and other marine creatures caught by accident during commercial fishing.


The man who serves as the sole voice of Norfolk's School Board must be willing to speak loudly and clearly when the occasion demands, to other board members and to the public. Yet Chairman Kirk Houston remained curiously silent to board members and school administrators about his testimony on behalf of a Maury High School senior charged in what police call a gang-related shooting. Even more curious: the division had no policy that would require notification to administrators or the board for students 18 and older charged with felonies, including gang and weapon charges.