Transparency News, 6/23/20


June 23, 2020
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state & local news stories
"She guessed the reversal may have had more to do with public pressure coupled with the recent federal disclosure of facility-specific information."
Until Friday morning, even leaders in the long-term care industry had no idea the state was about to reverse course on releasing the names of nursing homes and assisted living facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks. The sudden move came after months of the Virginia Department of Health insisting that state law prevented it from doing exactly that. The news release also came as a surprise to many state legislators, including some of the most vocal opponents of the previous policy. And while the newfound transparency was a welcome development, the abrupt change, coupled with a lack of clear explanation from the governor’s office, also led to confusion — and in some cases, frustration — over why the information wasn’t publicly released sooner. Sara Blose, director of health advocacy for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, said she had never been able to find support for the state’s argument that facilities had individual privacy rights, either in state code or through legal precedent. She guessed the reversal may have had more to do with public pressure coupled with the recent federal disclosure of facility-specific information, which, in some cases, inaccurately reported case and death counts at the state’s long-term care facilities.
Virginia Mercury

Del. Sam Rasoul said Monday he plans to seek a state opinion directing police to release footage of officer-involved deaths to surviving relatives once an investigation is closed. Rasoul, D-Roanoke, announced his plans while appearing in support of the family of Kionte Spencer, an 18-year-old who was shot and killed by Roanoke County police in 2016. Spencer’s family has been advocating for access to all footage available from the night of the shooting. Spencer’s older brother, Carl Spencer, said to date he’s only viewed an edited compilation of police dashcam footage. Roanoke County said Spencer’s family was shown all footage that captured the police interactions with Kionte Spencer that night. No video of those moments was withheld, a spokeswoman said Monday. 
The Roanoke Times

A member of the Martinsville City Council and a business owner from Henry County had a private cellphone conversation about finger-pointing racial issues in which they disagree about what was said. But at least the council member’s version of that conversation has prompted Martinsville Assistant City Manager and City Attorney Eric Monday to make this a public issue by threatening the business owner with a lawsuit at taxpayers’ expense to force him to stop his comments about the council member -- the propriety of which some could question. Ray Reynolds, 59, a photographer and construction contractor in Henry County, is an admitted outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump who said he has been called a racist in public forums because of that affiliation. Reynolds claims Monday’s threats of legal action toward him are personal and stem from a disagreement over a construction job Reynolds did in the city nine years ago.
Martinsville Bulletin
stories of national interest
"The DOJ said it redacted information pertaining to Stone to protect the criminal proceedings surrounding his prosecution."
The Justice Department on Friday released a new, less redacted version of the former special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election. The document was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit from BuzzFeed News and CNN. The department originally redacted significant portions of the Mueller report that relate to Roger Stone, the longtime former Republican strategist who was an informal adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016. Stone was convicted last year of seven felony counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and false statements. The DOJ said it redacted information pertaining to Stone to protect the criminal proceedings surrounding his prosecution.
Business Insider

An hourlong copy of Las Vegas police body-camera footage will cost the public $280 starting next month, a fee that far outpaces other local law enforcement agencies in Nevada. The new rate is almost six times greater than what the Metropolitan Police Department charged when it launched its body-camera program in 2014. The department raised its rate from an initial $48-per-hour fee to $192 per hour last July.  The fee is based on the total length of a video, not how long it takes detectives to edit out confidential information, a process known as redaction. For example, a half-hour-long video would cost $140 under the new rate, no matter how few redactions were made.
Las Vegas Review-Journal

A judge has denied a request from the N.C. Department of Public Safety asked a judge to modify an order to allow the agency to keep from reporting certain information about COVID-19 in prisons. Last week, Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier, Jr. signed an order that found DPS had likely violated prisoners’ constitutional rights by failing to properly protect them from the virus. Included in the order was a list of actions the agency must take and information that must be reported to the court. Among the information was the number of masks issued to each inmate along with information—including pictures or videos—about how the inmates were housed inside the prisons. On Monday, Rozier issued a new order denying a request from DPS’ attorneys to not produce that information.