Transparency News 6/20/18



June 20, 2018


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state & local news stories


"It is common for people to conduct business on their personal email and on personal time and to do personal business during business hours.”

Charlottesville city officials must turn over emails, messages and other documents related to the 2017 decision to remove two downtown statues of Confederate generals, a city circuit court judge ruled on Tuesday. Judge Richard E. Moore decided that city councilors and the city manager will need to turn over documents generated for or by them. They are to be given to attorneys representing the Monument Fund, which is suing the city over the 2017 statue removal vote. Documents include email, phone calls and messages, letters and other communications sent via the councilors’ private servers, as well as those developed or sent as official city business. “Unfortunately, we do not have a nice divide between business and personal life anymore,” Moore said. “It is common for people to conduct business on their personal email and on personal time and to do personal business during business hours.”
The Daily Progress

Ron Llewellyn, a Warren County-Front Royal Economic Development Authority board member, has at times owed the county between $200,000 and $300,000 in delinquent real estate taxes, according to Warren County Treasurer Wanda Bryant. In the recent list of delinquent taxes released by the Treasurer’s Office, the LLCs or properties that Llewellyn claimed an interest in on his financial disclosure form owed $13,671. That was before the recent June 5 tax due date, when Bryant said Llewellyn made delinquent payments of at least $8,052. LLewellyn said he does not want the total amount he has owed revealed, and that exact figure has been difficult to obtain from the Treasurer’s Office.
The Northern Virginia Daily

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D. C.) has written to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, demanding it release details of its chief executive’s contract, citing the agency’s “unique and heightened duty to make transparency in its business practices a priority.” Potter’s total compensation is probably higher than $451,700, but MWAA refused a request from The Washington Post to make his full contract public, citing personal privacy exemptions in its Freedom of Information policy. That policy sharply differs from other airport agencies, including those of Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas, which make contracts for their top executives public. 
The Washington Post

Four years after hackers stole personal information from over 22 million people through the Office of Personnel Management, a fraud scheme exploiting that data has come to light in southeast Virginia. Two people have admitted in Newport News federal court they used the stolen identities to take out fake loans through a federal credit union. The case appears to be the first involving OPM data to be publicly revealed by the Justice Department.
The Washington Post


stories of national interest

Government transparency could be getting even worse, according to Citizens United and the American Civil Liberties Union. “I think the state of transparency is getting worse in a lot of respects and it’s not just Freedom of Information Act requests. We’re seeing systemic efforts by the government to withhold information from the public,” Neema Guliani, the ACLU's legislative counsel, told the Hill.TV’s “Rising” on Monday. The ACLU has joined forces with the conservative Citizens United group to gain better access to government information. They teamed up because both groups have run into problems from the government when seeking information through Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Hill

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission is supposed to be the watchdog for how public officials behave. But in the wake of one recent case, ethics commissioners debated withholding and even destroying public records. The case involves high school sports, a Beaverton mom who commissioners dismissively called a “volleyball watchdog,” and the rules governing public officials and their private businesses.



"Both the ACLU and Citizens United have run into problems from the government when seeking information through Freedom of Information Act requests."


editorials & columns


Richmond Public Schools made one good move this week and another that bears watching.  The Richmond schools announced this week that they are not ready to make public the design proposals for three schools that will use funds raised by the city’s new meals tax. At this stage of the process, as the city reviews multiple designs from contending bidders, it is acceptable to examine the possibilities privately before reporting to the public. Some proposals may be unrealistic or financially unfeasible.
But that must change soon. Once a designer has been selected, the city has a responsibility to its citizens, students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers to open the process to the public. That means RPS must share detailed information about the building designs, and — most important — be willing to make sensible changes based on ideas offered by the people who will pay for and be served by the schools.
Richmond Times-Dispatch