Transparency News, 6/30/20


June 30, 2020
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state & local news stories
"The chief said releasing the reports would be 'reckless' because laypeople are not qualified to analyze them."
Pitching tents and firing up grills, about 150 protesters took over a grassy area between Norfolk City Hall and the courthouse, demanding city officials and police release thousands of reports showing how officers use force against people. They said they plan to occupy the area until they get the records. “Otherwise we don’t know what’s going on,” Lavonne Pledger said. “We pay for something we don’t know about.” The sit-in is a response to a June 19 Virginian-Pilot story about the department and the city denying Freedom of Information Act requests for police use-of-force reports from the past decade. The secrecy, which has been in place for years, makes it impossible to tell whether police use force differently in different parts of the city, or against black people — or whether any officers have committed a disproportionate number of shootings. Protest organizers Tyler Woodard and Jupiter Walbrook said they met with Police Chief Larry Boone on Monday afternoon and he told them he would publicly release the reports. But that’s not what Boone told multiple news organizations earlier in the day. In an interview with The Pilot, the chief said releasing the reports would be “reckless” because laypeople are not qualified to analyze them.
The Virginian-Pilot

A Forest man says more than 1,200 people have reported restaurants, churches, and other businesses across the Commonwealth for not following Gov. Ralph Northam’s mask mandate. The man filed Freedom of Information Act request for that information. He’s calling it Snitch Leaks and it’s getting a lot of attention on social media. “The short answer is I wanted to see how many people would rat out Anne Frank. And it’s essentially that,” said Isaiah Knight. Knight got information for 1,293 people from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
(NOTE: Knight serves on the VCOG board of directors)

With such pressing matters as fall return-to-school plans and the fate of the Loudoun County High School mascot on the agenda, nearly 300 community members felt compelled to sign up for public comment at Tuesday's Loudoun County School Board meeting.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Members of the Leesburg Town Council will meet Tuesday night with a recruiter hired by the town to assist in the search for its next legal representative.  The special meeting is not expected to yield a final decision on whom to select as the next town attorney, and much of the meeting is likely to be held in closed session. Human Resources Director Joshua Didawick declined to address questions about Tuesday’s meeting, citing Freedom of Information Act exemptions.
stories of national interest
"Council members say they can’t disclose what they didn’t like about [his] performance due to a non-disparagement clause in his termination agreement."
A new judge has taken the reins in the James Brown estate proceedings, and on May 12 he issued an order that may help to conclude nine years of legal battles in a South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Aiken Judge Clifton Newman has ordered the Columbia law firm of Kenneth Wingate release a document requested in 2011 under the FOIA from Attorney General Alan Wilson by former Brown co-trustee, Adele Pope of Newberry.
Newberry Observer

Before firing City Administrator Howard Lazarus in a 7-4 vote in February, Ann Arbor City Council members conducted his annual performance review. While council gave Lazarus an overall score of 3.2 out of 5, city emails show, it remains unknown what council members had to say about his job performance — specifically in which areas they praised him and in which areas they offered critique. The city won’t release those records under the Freedom of Information Act and council members say they can’t disclose what they didn’t like about Lazarus’ performance due to a non-disparagement clause in his termination agreement.
mLive Michigan