Transparency News, 6/23/2022


June 23, 2022

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state & local news stories


When John Moss first ran for a seat on the City Council, he knew there would be no assistants. The job, which he has held on and off since 1986, is hard work. He said he spends about 50 hours a week serving the city and answering emails. Despite the long hours, he opposes the proposal discussed earlier this month to hire aides to work about 20 hours a week, at a rate of $20 an hour, with money reserved in the budget at the last minute. “I don’t know how you explain raising taxes on people and then give yourself an assistant,” he said. That’s why at Tuesday’s meeting, he and Councilwoman Barbara Henley created an ordinance that would have directed the city manager not to hire any assistants or support staff for individual council members. Ultimately, a substitute motion passed that defers the issue indefinitely.
The Virginian-Pilot

The Spotsylvania County School Board appointed a new acting superintendent Tuesday night. That decision, however, played second fiddle to contentious arguments regarding the proposed condemnation of a social media post by board member Nicole Cole. The board traded barbs about other members’ comments and actions before finally entering closed session to discuss Cole’s social media post. When members emerged from the closed session, Cole did not return, leaving the remaining six members to discuss and vote on the motion to condemn the Facebook post. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Cole and Shelley challenged the closed session on several fronts. Cole said there needed to be a specific reason so the public could understand why the board was going into closed session. Cole and Dawn Shelley asked several times for School Board attorney Brad King to address questions they had, but he was not in the meeting room. Board Chairman Kirk Twigg spoke on the phone with the attorney during the meeting, to Shelley’s objections, and said King would talk with the board during closed session. The public has a right to know the reason for the closed session, Cole said before addressing Twigg directly. “You’re violating my rights, and I can sue you,” she said. Rabih Abuismail said he would rather discuss issues like Cole’s post between members in closed session “rather than standing outside giving speeches in front of ‘recall Twigg’ and ‘recall Rabih’ signs.”
The Free Lance-Star

stories of national interest

Arkansas Circuit Judge Alice Gray Tuesday granted a request from the family of Mark Middleton to seal photos, video and other visual content in the investigation of his apparent suicide May 7 in Perry County . The order allows a petitioner to state a reason for release when the investigation is complete and the file is open under the Freedom of Information Act. The order does not pertain to documents from the sheriff’s or coroner’s investigation. Middleton, 59, a Little Rock business executive, was found dead on the Heifer Ranch. Sheriff Scott Montgomery gave an interview, before cutting off media information, to an online publication in which he said Middleton apparently shot himself in the chest with a shotgun and also hung himself from a tree with an extension cord. "The Court finds that the Middletons have a protected privacy interest in the Media Content contained within the file based on their showing that (1) the Middletons want to keep the Media Content private and confidential; (2) that, except for government action, i.e. disclosure in response to a FOIA request, such Media Content can be kept private and confidential; and (3) that a reasonable person would find the disclosure of the Media Content harmful or embarrassing."
Arkansas Times