Transparency News 6/19/13


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

  State and Local Stories


Nearly six months of tension on the Richmond School Board finally spilled over about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, when two members engaged in a brief exchange after a late, testy closed sessionduring which the board discussed hiring an interim superintendent. Tichi L. Pinkney Eppes of the 8th District tried fending off a verbal challenge from Kim B. Gray, 2nd District, but the two were quickly separated by a school system security guard. They left separately with no further incident, but hours later two members sent scathing emails about the incident and demanded quick action from the board chairman.

Lynchburg City School Board candidate Michael Nilles said Tuesday he would like to see the division emphasize vocational programs and improve graduation rates. “I think the biggest thing is to get graduation rates up,” he said, following a closed-door interview with Lynchburg City Council.Interviews are recorded and released after appointment of a candidate.
News & Advance

A Preservation Virginia field representative and a group of volunteers have completed the first ever survey of old tobacco barns in Pittsylvania County. Sonja Ingram estimated they have surveyed about 260 barns, which make up a small portion of the structures that exist in the county. Ingram has been collecting information and writing a report on the survey for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Register & Bee

The chatter over Prince William County’s new, now discarded $750 two-blue-squares logo seemed to be over. The Board of Supervisors didn’t like it, and the county was going back to the drawing board next month. But Supervisor Peter Candland (R-Gainesville) was not satisfied. He learned that there were other logos prepared, at a cost of $12,500, and he wanted to know why the board wasn’t told this, and what happened to those logos, as well as how the two-blue-squares logo came into being. Fellow Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) said it was time to move on. “I’m sorry Peter, this is overkill!” Principi wrote in an e-mail to Candland, and he put a stop to Candland’s letter, which would have served as a “board directive” to county staff. Candland responded by converting his letter into a citizen’s Freedom of Information Act request seeking his answers. The county responded, as counties often do, by telling their own county supervisor he’d probably have to pay money to get all the documents he was seeking. Candland’s wife, Robyn Candland, on Tuesday sent out an e-mail ripping Principi for objecting to his initial request, and for being told to pay money for information from the county he was elected to lead.
Washington Post

National Stories

California Gov. Jerry Brown is poised to sign legislation that could reduce the public's access to basic government records that have long been used to scrutinize the actions of elected officials. The proposal, a late insert into the state budget that lawmakers passed last week, would allow local officials to opt out of parts of the California law that gives citizens access to government documents. Under that law, officials now must respond to a request for records from a member of the public within 10 days and are required to make the documents available electronically. The change, which Brown requested as a cost-cutting measure, would allow the officials to skip both requirements with a voice vote. The same vote would permit them to reject requests without explanation and would no longer require them to help citizens identify existing information.
Los Angeles Times

Google has asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to lift a gag order, saying it has the constitutional right to clear its name by discussing government data requests. The company filed a five-page motion before the court on Tuesday afternoon, arguing it has "a right under the First Amendment to publish" summary statistics about requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The court-martial of the U.S. soldier accused of providing reams of classified documents to WikiLeaks in a case illustrating the challenge of keeping secrets in the digital age must decide whether tweets and Web pages can be admitted as evidence. Lawyers for Private First Class Bradley Manning, 25, who is accused with providing more than 700,000 files to the anti-secrecy website in the biggest breach of classified U.S. data in the nation's history, argued on Tuesday that Twitter postings offered by prosecutors do not meet the court's standards.

Lawyers used grammar rules as much as Georgia laws in their arguments Monday before the Supreme Court over whether the state is required to turn over Kia Motors’ hiring records. Gov. Nathan Deal has said the records need to be kept secret to allow the state to compete with other states in enticing large employers to bring jobs to Georgia. Four members of the United Auto Workers labor union are suing to get access to documents the state has in order to see if the company had a stated policy to discriminate against union members. They say the state’s Open Records Act entitles them to the papers, but government lawyers contend a change in the law to protect proprietary information enacted after the suit was filed removes that access, which sets up the question of whether the retroactive provisions are constitutional. Russ Willard, a senior assistant attorney general, told the justices the General Assembly has authority to change the law retroactively because access to the state’s documents was just a privilege and not a right. “These are no rights that arise out of common law,” he said. “These exist out of legislative grace.”
Athens Banner-Herald

National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander told a House committee Tuesday that more than 50 terror threats throughout the world have been disrupted with the assistance of two secret surveillance programs that were recently disclosed by former defense contractor Edward Snowden. More than 10 of the plots targeted the U.S. homeland, Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee, including a plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange.
USA Today

When a senior FBI official told Congress the role the NSA’s secret surveillance apparatus played in a San Diego terror financing case today, nobody was more surprised to hear it than the defense attorney who fought a long and futile court battle to get exactly the same information while defending the case in court. “His lawyers — who all have security clearances — we can’t learn about it until it’s to the government’s tactical advantage politically to disclose it,” says New York attorney Joshua Dratel. “National security is about keeping illegal conduct concealed from the American public until you’re forced to justify it because someone ratted you out.”


Kerry Dougherty, Virginian-Pilot: Repeat after me: Nothing on Facebook is private. Not one thing. Not ever. Make snarky comments about your boss on Facebook, and you're asking for trouble at work. Ridicule your spouse, and you're in hot water at home. And if you happen to be a 911 dispatcher who treats a police shooting as a joke, you risk inflaming an already explosive situation. The First Amendment protects our right to say almost anything. But common sense should tell us how to responsibly exercise that right. Especially on Facebook, where ugly remarks are immortal.

Roanoke TimesCouncil members should treat themselves just as fairly by ensuring their salaries are not eroded by upcoming mandatory deductions for retirement plans. As opponents said during the debate, council members knew what the position paid when they ran for the job. That pay should not be penalized, either.

News & Advance: It’s no wonder politicians and candidates for public office refer to Virginia as the Cayman Islands of political finance. There are few rules and no limits on the amount of gift giving to public office holders or those seeking public office.