Transparency News, 6/17/21


June 17, 2021
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state & local news stories
"I would ask if you can’t be respectful of each other, you at least be considerate of the residents and citizens who show up."
Join us at 2 p.m. for a webinar about House Bill 2004 — a new state law designed to provide a measure of access to inactive criminal investigative files. Virginia Coalition for Open Government is teaming up with SPJVA on this how-to workshop.

I'll be dissecting the bill to explain how it is intended to work and how it interacts with other parts of FOIA. I'll also offer tips and strategies for asking for records under the statute, which takes effect July 1. The bill was sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst, a former journalist.

The workshop is free and will be recorded, but you must register.
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Now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, the Virginia Beach City Council is returning to its normal meeting spot in City Hall. Last fall, the Health Department recommended that the Virginia Beach City Council and Planning Commission temporarily relocate to the city-owned convention center until conditions of the coronavirus pandemic improved. The vaccine clinic was also operated inside of the convention center. The HVAC system in the City Hall council chambers did not meet the Centers for Disease Control expectations for air cleaning and circulation to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So since October, the council has been regularly meeting at the convention center to allow the public enough room to practice social distancing.
The Virginian-Pilot

Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, won a two-year restraining order this week against a Rockingham County man with ties to a far-right militia who had filed a Freedom of Information Act Request with his office. The bizarre case involved a violent tweet, a threatening phone call and a long-running feud between the defendant and Morrissey’s biggest political donor, Nexus Services, a Virginia-based company that has faced repeated accusations of exploiting vulnerable immigrants. Briggman said he learned through a civil lawsuit filed by Nexus in Florida that the company had prepared a psychological profile and provided it to Morrissey. In an effort to obtain a copy, Briggman filed the Freedom of Information Act request with Morrissey’s office. A phone call followed — Briggman and Morrissey each claim the other initiated it. And Briggman and Morrissey each claimed the other proceeded to swear and make violent threats.
Virginia Mercury

Prince William County supervisors were admonished Tuesday for their conduct after a squabble devolved into personal attacks. Haymarket Town Council member Bob Weir, who planned to speak at a public hearing, said the meeting ran late because of the board’s “petty squabbles.” He said the situation was embarrassing and disappointing.  “I’ve never been as embarrassed as I am tonight by the behavior of the board as a whole. I would ask if you can’t be respectful of each other, you at least be considerate of the residents and citizens who show up,” he said. “If you’re going to continue to do this, I would request that you move your closed sessions, defer to the end, so that those of us who have lives outside of McCoart [government center] can come here, get our business done and go home.”

editorials & opinion

Tis the season of investigations. We recently had the investigation the state ordered into Virginia Military Institute. Now we have the investigation ordered into the investigation that of the Virginia Parole Board. That report is now out and amounts to an “investigation of an investigation.” What to make of it? Let’s break this down. 1. This investigation was never going to tell us very much. 2. The report’s main allegation isn’t well-supported. 3. Nothing in this report contradicts the original inspector general’s report. 4. The report shows how the parole board chair worked to get Martin released. Ultimately, this Democratic-backed inquiry underscores a Republican point: It reveals just enough questionable behavior to merit a full investigation.
The Roanoke Times