Transparency News 6/20/13


Thursday, June 20, 2013
State and Local Stories


State court clerks have seen a flurry of requests from politicians and the media to obtain lists of Virginians with concealed-handgun permits before a new law takes effect July 1 that will close off the data to the public. So far, however, some seeking the records have come up empty-handed, calling into question how open the information has been.

The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro Chapter honored a leading journalist during the 2013 George Mason Award Banquet Tuesday, June 18 at the University of Richmond. Dick Hammerstrom of The Free Lance-Star received the George Mason Award for his relentless efforts in the arena of freedom of information. (Hammerstrom is VCOG Board of Directors vice president)
Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro chapter

The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro chapter, gave its George and Frances CrutchfieldDistinguished Service Award for 2013 to longtime chapter leader Brian Eckert at the annual George Mason Banquet and Celebration June 18.
Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro chapter

The debate some community bloggers dubbed “logo-gate” in recent weeks flared anew Tuesday when Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, criticized fellow Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, for continuing to push the issue with a three-page list of questions Candland fired off to county staff last week. “I thought that was a stunning development that a sitting supervisor had to file a FOIA request and even more stunning that I would have to pay for it,” Candland said. “I think that has a chilling effect on the process we have here in Prince William County.” “I take the spending of taxpayer money very seriously,” he said, noting that as part-time supervisors they rely on county staff to provide information “and not have to go fishing” for it. During the discussion that followed, County Attorney Angela Horan explained she offered Candland the option of filing a FOIA request after Principi formally objected to Candland’s questions. County staff does not proceed with one request at the objection of another’s, Candland said in an interview after the meeting. Board Vice Chairman Wally Covington, R-Brentsville, who led the meeting in board Chairman Corey Stewart’s absence, said he found Candland’s letter “exuberant” but sought to resolve the issue by conducting a straw poll to gain the board’s consent to drop the fees associated with answering Candland’s questions.
Inside Nova
Public officials are citizens, too. Their FOIA requests should be treated no better and no worse than others.

The Henrico County School Board will meet behind closed doors today to consider extending the contract of Superintendent Patrick J. Russo, who has led the 49,000-student school district for four years. School Board Chairwoman Beverly L. Cocke has said the board is “pleased” with Russo’s leadership and that he has set high standards for the district. But several people with close ties to Henrico schools have expressed frustration with Russo’s management and pointed to employee turnover as evidence of a troubled work environment, though no current employees have agreed to speak publicly for fear of job repercussions. Though a vote on Russo’s contract is not expected at the work session this afternoon, there will be a public comment period at today’s monthly meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. The School Board is not scheduled to meet in July. Officials have said a vote on Russo’s contract could come in August.

The Virginia Farm Bureau has recently launched a website allowing anyone to report accidents on farms in the state. A person with knowledge of a farm accident is encouraged to visit the site and fill out a form, according the June issue of the organization’s magazine.
News & Advance

National Stories

Associated Press’ president Gary Pruitt on Wednesday slammed the Department of Justice for acting as “judge, jury and executioner” in the seizure of the news organization’s phone records and he saidsome of the wire service’s longtime sources have clammed up in fear. Pruitt said the department broke its own rules with the seizure, which he said was too broad, and by failing to give the AP notice of the subpoena. Pruitt questioned the DoJ’s actions concerning the subpoena — had the DoJ come to the news organization in advance, “we could have helped them narrow the scope of the subpoena” or a court could have decided, he said.

New Jersey lawyer pens comical letter to township trying to shut his client’s website about the area.
CNET News article
Copy of letter

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Tuesday urged Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. to allow live broadcast of the Supreme Court's opinion announcements in the blockbuster cases due to be issued before the end of June. “It is not unreasonable for the American people to have an opportunity to hear firsthand the arguments and opinions that will shape their society for years to come," Durbin wrote to Roberts in a letter released Tuesday. Coming so late in the term, the letter amounts to a Hail Mary pass, especially since the court has stubbornly resisted live broadcast of any of its proceedings since the earliest days of radio. But Durbin's letter is different from other efforts in that it seeks broadcast of the court's opinion announcements, not just its oral arguments.
Blog of LegalTimes

Everyone loves goofy and weird mobile apps. We don't typically expect them from the federal government. While the White House's May 2012 digital government strategy directed federal departments and agencies to go forth and build apps for the people, the roadmap and accompanying memo failed to order fed-made apps to look as cool as Temple Run 2 or be as addicting as Plants vs. Zombies. But clearly they're rockin' some commercial gaming app influences. Look a bit beyond basic government offerings — such as IRS2Go or Veterans Affairs Mobile or USAJOBS — for a range of free and somewhat surprising federal mobile oddities.
Law Technology News

Scary monsters adorning the outside of singer Chris Brown's Hollywood Hills home are his personal art and he isn't about to give up his 1st Amendment right to expression because of a city citation, his attorney said. Mark Geragos, the singer's attorney, has filed an appeal with the city of Los Angeles over a citation Brown received after neighbors complained about the bright, 8-foot-tall figures with bulging eyes and fangs on the walls of his designer home.
Los Angeles Times

The head of a newly revived federal privacy oversight board pledged on Wednesday to be "as transparent and public as possible" as the board reviews recently exposed U.S. government secret surveillance programs. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which has been largely dormant since 2008, held its first full-fledged meeting on Wednesday after the Senate confirmed David Medine as its chairman last month.

Marshall University and President Stephen J. Kopp are being sued for failing to honor multiple Freedom of Information Act requests. The petitioners include American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia; AFL-CIO; Christine Campbell, the president; and Drs. Dallas Brozik and James Sottile, members. On April 19, Brozik orally made a Freedom of Information Act request to Marshall and Kopp seeking detailed budget information, including line item information for various units in the university, according to a complaint filed June 7 in Cabell Circuit Court. Brozik claims on May 3, he followed up his initial oral FOIA request in writing and added a request for the same information requested orally for the previous four years.
West Virginia Record


Tom Jackman, Washington Post: In what seems like another sign of our troubled political times, the Fauquier Times-Democrat is deleting “Democrat” from its name after 108 years. The Warrenton paper found that having the term in the title gave the wrong impression in deeply Republican Fauquier County — the paper is neither Democratic nor Republican — and there’s no need to offend anyone because of a meaningless name, particularly the way newspapers are faring these days. Offending people with reporting and editorializing, now that’s what we’re here for.