Transparency News 6/18/13

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


State and Local Stories    

A look round the state by the Virginia Public Access Project gives an interesting snapshot of the state of democracy: believe it or not, it will be only a minority of members of the 100 member House of Delegates who get a pass on actually having to win voters’ endorsement in November. Yes: Only 49 incumbents are in uncontested races.
Roanoke Times

Petitioners now have enough signatures to ask a court to remove Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Byron "Buzz" Bailey from office, but the petition likely won't be filed until next week at the earliest. Some community members have been calling on Bailey and School Board member Herb DeGroft to resign since racist emails the men sent were made public in May. The two have refused to resign and efforts to remove them via petition have been gathering steam over the past few weeks. Joe Puglisi, one of the Newport district residents leading the effort to oust Bailey, said the Bailey petition had around 285 signatures on Monday. That's almost 50 more than the 238 needed to file the petition with the Circuit Court to begin the removal process.
Daily Press

A 911 dispatcher's Facebook post about a deadly police shooting last month has sparked a complaint to the city. The May 21 post by dispatcher Jessica Camarillo read: "I think the officers should sue the family for putting the officers lives in danger, making detectives work past the time they were suppose to get off, the gas it took for them to get to the scene, the bullets used, the hospital bills, the equipments needed for forensics, and making me work the channel instead of reading my hot sexy book...LOL."

Jim Hewitt has resigned from the Portsmouth School Board after work constraints caused him to miss several meetings. Hewitt, 42, was in his second term as a board member. First elected in 2006, his term was set to expire next year. Hewitt said his work as a nuclear zone manager at Norfolk Naval Shipyard recently resulted in more travel. It wasn't fair for him to hold a seat on the board any longer, he said.

The Roanoke City Council voted Monday to hold off on awarding itself a large pay raise in order to discuss other salary options next month. Council members voted 5-2 to table the second reading of an ordinance that would have raised council members’ pay by 28.5 percent and the mayor’s pay by 15 percent. The ordinance establishing the raises had passed by a 4-3 vote June 3, a margin narrow enough to force a second vote. However, Councilman Bill Bestpitch made a motion that council table the vote until after members could discuss the matter further during an upcoming work session.
Roanoke Times

A longtime Madison County Sheriff's Office employee could collect almost $200,000 in pay for unused leave when he retires, officials said Monday. Charlottesville-based Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates, Madison's accounting firm, is reviewing personnel records from the Sheriff's Office to determine whether the county has to pay up,  said Ernie Hoch, county administrator. That report is expected within 30 days, Hoch said. Madison County adopted a policy in 2008 limiting maximum accrued leave to 240 hours. That policy is similar to those followed in Albemarle County and Charlottesville, according to officials in those localities. However, the Madison County Sheriff Erik Weaver opted his office out of the unused leave limit, Hoch said. "We just pay the hours he reports to us because he is not part of our personnel plan. He has his own," Hoch said.
Daily Progress

Lynchburg City Council will gather to interview one candidate for the open District 3 school board seat Tuesday. Council invited only one to interview, though — Michael Nilles, is a Babcock & Wilcox engineer with four children in the city schools. Last week, Councilman Jeff Helgeson indicated he felt Nilles was the clear choice. Helgeson, a frequent critic of the school administration, said he felt the other candidates had “some pretty serious conflicts of interest” because either they or a family member were employed by the city or schools. The final decision on whom to interview was made in closed session, but during open session it appeared as though at least some council members were interested in interviewing more than one candidate.
News & Advance

National Stories

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to consider whether an airline had legal immunity from a defamation claim after employees reported a disgruntled colleague to federal authorities as a possible security risk. During his fourth attempt at a training test he had to pass to keep his job, former pilot William Hoeper lost his temper and left the training facility in Virginia, according to court papers. From there he went to Dulles International Airport to catch a flight to his home in Denver. In the meantime, Air Wisconsin colleagues told the Transportation Security Administration that Hoeper was disgruntled and may have a firearm under a program that allows pilots to carry guns. Agents subsequently took Hoeper from his flight and determined he was unarmed. He was able to take a later flight. The following day, the airline told Hoeper he was terminated.  Hoeper sued the airlines for defamation.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that lawyers cannot gather personal information about drivers from state databases when seeking plaintiffs for potential lawsuits. The court held in a narrow 5-4 vote that the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act of 1994 does not allow lawyers to seek the information.

There's a quaint concept that seemingly every technology company dismisses as outdated. It's called opting in. Should you not be familiar with it, it's the notion that you ought to choose before, say, all the people in your address book are contacted by a company they've never heard of. And wouldn't it be lovely to have a choice over whether your kids should have their irises scanned, as they get on their school bus? The parents of around 750 kids in several Florida schools never got that choice -- because of what might be politely termed a series of errors and less politely as "what the hell is going on around here?"

The Obama administration Monday lifted a veil of secrecy surrounding the status of the detainees at Guantánamo, for the first time publicly naming the four dozen captives it defined as indefinite detainees — men too dangerous to transfer but who cannot be tried in a court of law. The names had been a closely held secret since a multi-agency task force sifted through the files of the Guantánamo detainees in 2009 trying to achieve President Barack Obama’s executive order to close the detention center.
Miami Herald

A huge database of troop names and email addresses an Army private allegedly downloaded to a personal computer could be used by foreign adversaries to launch cyberattacks on service members, a government witness said Monday as the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning entered its third week.
ABC News

A U.S. security expert says he has identified ways to remotely attack high-end surveillance cameras used by industrial plants, prisons, banks and the military, something that potentially would allow hackers to spy on facilities or gain access to sensitive computer networks. Craig Heffner, a former software developer with the National Security Administration who now works for a private security firm, said he discovered the previously unreported bugs in digital video surveillance equipment from firms including Cisco Systems Inc, D-Link Corp and TRENDnet.


Kevin Yoder, Tom Graves and Jared Polis, Wired: As with so many significant privacy violations of late by government agencies — from the NSA to the IRS — it’s become clear that technology has far outpaced law. Because the federal laws meant to protect our Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in [our] persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable search and seizure” do not adequately cover Americans’ property online. Especially email. Under current statute, government agencies such as the IRS, DHS, SEC and many others are allowed to access emails and other private communications older than 180 days without obtaining a search warrant or demonstrating probable cause that a crime has been committed. How is it possible that government can claim this authority, accessing our most intimate “soft” communications — but not, say, a “hard” letter lying around our houses? The reason is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.