Transparency News, 6/17/2022


June 17, 2022

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state & local news stories


A special Portsmouth City Council meeting Thursday to discuss incoming City Manager Tonya Chapman’s contract and tie up loose ends from an earlier meeting devolved into hours of allegations against council members, personal attacks and infighting. Following a closed session, the council unanimously voted to defer Chapman’s start date to June 28 pending a criminal background check.  Amid the insults, two allegations of misconduct surfaced involving council members. Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke said a community member informed her in May that unidentified council members may be charging residents in exchange for information about obtaining city services, such as permits and licenses. Lucas-Burke said she made then-City Manager Angel Jones aware of the allegation and Vice Mayor De’Andre Barnes called for an investigation into the claim. Local pastor Barry Randall also hurled an allegation against Barnes, claiming that he inappropriately uses city facilities and services in connection with an organization he operates. The Virginian-Pilot has not confirmed either allegation.
The Virginian-Pilot

Washington Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution prohibiting town staff from communicating with residents or businesses about legal matters following a chain of events that led the town’s attorney to send a letter to The Inn at Little Washington that the business’ attorney deemed threatening. The letter, sent Friday afternoon to Inn General Manager Bob Fasce by Town Attorney Martin Crim, alleged that an unofficial stop sign placed by The Inn on a private street it owns at the intersection of Middle Street and Main Street near Patty O’s Cafe & Bakery created a “public nuisance,” according to a copy of the email obtained by the Rappahannock News. Warrenton-based attorney Joe Pricone, who spoke on behalf of The Inn during public comment at the meeting, called the correspondence “inappropriate.” The letter was penned after Town Administrator Barbara Batson was contacted by three residents complaining that motorists were allegedly not abiding by the unofficial stop sign and creating unsafe street conditions, she said. The identities of the people who complained were publicly withheld, despite Town Council member and Inn Chef-Proprietor Patrick O’Connell insisting that they be disclosed. 
Rappahannock News

The Luray woman charged after telling Page County School Board members in January she would bring “every single gun loaded” if her children had to wear masks in school had her case continued until the end of the month Thursday. The trial for Amelia Ruffner King, 42, has been continued until June 30 at 10 a.m. in Page County General District Court. On Jan. 21, the Luray Police Department charged King with making an oral threat while on school property, a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia. King was one of four speakers at a Page County School Board meeting Jan. 20, when officials were discussing the mask mandate for the commonwealth’s schools.
Daily News Record

At this point, the 75 or so citizens who get their mail at the Montpelier Station Post Office have far more questions than answers. All they know thus far, is that the quaint post office in the restored Montpelier Station Train Station on Route 15 closed unexpectedly and somewhat abruptly late last week. A brief, two-line sign on the exterior door and another inside reads, “The Montpelier Station Post Office will be closed until further notice. All customers with P.O. boxes will be able to pick up their mail at the Orange Post Office located at 129 W. Main Street., Orange. I apologize for the inconvenience,” signed Benjamin Orr, Postmaster, Orange Post Office. While that may answer the logistical questions about collecting mail from an office that’s been in existence since 1912, it doesn’t answer the philosophical question of why?
Orange County Review

stories of national interest

California’s state bar association, which is responsible for licensing and regulating more than 250,000 lawyers in the most populous US state, is itself under scrutiny for a data leak that allowed confidential client complaint and attorney disciplinary record data to be captured by a free court records website. As many as 322,500 such documents were vacuumed up by between October 2021 and February 2022, according to a proposed class action filed against the California bar by two lawyers, a former judge, and three people with attorney grievances, all of whom are proceeding anonymously. When a state bar experiences a data breach, confidential information stored in disciplinary files could be a target, and releasing those files could potentially lead to doxing, extortion, or identity theft, as well as to litigation against the bar, according to attorneys who spoke to Bloomberg Law about the matter.
Bloomberg Law

There could be a pathway for Wyoming politicians to be formally cleared to accept campaign contributions in the form of virtual currency — at least possibly if state officials go along with this suggestion. During a hearing Tuesday, June 14, morning of the Legislature's Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation, several lawmakers suggested this could be a possibility. Sens. Chris Rothfuss, D- Laramie, and Tara Nethercott, R- Cheyenne, noted that one approach could be for the value of a cryptocurrency political contribution to be pegged to the worth of the crypto at the time of the donation. In comments to the live-streamed meeting in Sheridan of the panel, which is made up of members from both chambers of the Legislature, a witness from the Legislative Service Office summarized legislative efforts on crypto in states across the country. LSO's Emily Wangen described this as "one interesting trend that I noticed" in her research. She went on to say that some states have taken steps to authorize such political contributions, while others are headed in the opposite direction.