Transparency News 6/3/13


Monday, June 3, 2013

State and Local Stories

Check out the most recent entries on VCOG’s Blog

Daily Press: The Virginia Attorney General's Office on Friday issued an opinion regarding a Hampton Police Division cigarette sting, concluding that a "churning" operation was within the department's power but that it should have been subject to laws regarding government spending.

Daily Press: J.J. "Jeff" Keever, the second in command at the Virginia Port Authority, left the agency this week after almost a decade of work. Keever, who handled government relations in Washington and Richmond for the port authority as its deputy executive director, left on Wednesday, according to VPA spokesman Joe Harris and earlier reported by the Daily Press. On Tuesday, Keever briefed the VPA Board of Commissioners in a closed-door session on the agency's longtime relationship with a lobbyist, Federal Advocates Inc. Immediately after the meeting, board chair William Fralin and Harris both indicated the port authority had not hired a lobbyist, with Fralin suggesting that any advocacy was done in-house by Keever. However both Fralin and Harris clarified their statements on Thursday after the Daily Press reported on Federal Advocates' work done on behalf of the agency. Three people affiliated with the VPA and its operating company, and familiar with the situation, say his departure was not connected to the lobbying arrangement. They asked not to be named because state employees' personnel matters are considered confidential in Virginia.

Times-Dispatch: Maureen McDonnell, the wife of Virginia’s governor, was paid $36,000 last year to attend a handful of meetings as a consultant to the philanthropic arm of one of the state’s major coal companies, a top coal company official said. Gov. Bob McDonnell indicated on his annual financial disclosure forms for 2011 and 2012 that his wife served as a paid trustee of a family charity, the Frances G. and James W. McGlothlin Foundation. But in an interview, James McGlothlin said the $21 million family foundation never named McDonnell to its board. Instead, McGlothlin said, the family asked Maureen McDonnell to become an adviser to the charitable efforts of both the family foundation and the United Company, a natural resources and real estate company in Bristol that has made the McGlothlins one of the wealthiest families in the state.

Times-Dispatch: A grass-roots effort to strip Christopher J. Dumler of his Albemarle County supervisor seat was dealt a fatal blow Friday morning, a stone’s throw from the courtroom where he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery in January. One week after presiding over Dumler’s four-hour civil trial, county Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins ruled she could not order the embattled Democrat out of office under an untested provision of state code cited in a petition calling for his ouster. “The evidence clearly shows that the conviction has resulted in a loss of confidence by the public and by the Board of Supervisors, but the court does not find that ... to be the equivalent of neglect of duty,” she said.

Washington Post: The new logo is a dark blue square inside a larger, lighter blue square. Simple, spare, modern. Does it embody Prince William County in all its blue-squaredness? Some say no, and one Prince William supervisor wants the county to “cease, desist and rescind” the proposed logo from county letterheads and property.

Loudoun Times Mirror: Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York has appeared twice before a special grand jury examining the allegations that Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio broke county policy and abused public office for political gain. Speaking with the Times-Mirror on Thursday, York (R-At Large) said he could not estimate a timeline for when the investigation of Delgaudio, led by Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos, would conclude. When asked whether he's had contact with Stamos since the investigation began in late 2012, York answered in the affirmative, saying he's gone before the special grand jury on two occasions. Stamos on Thursday confirmed the investigation is ongoing but wouldn't give a date for its completion. Stamos said she was hopeful the case would be finalized within the next month.

National Stories

A proposal in the Ohio Senate would require more government meetings to be open to the public and expand the possible penalties for violating Ohio’s open meetings law. The current law says the decision-making body of a public organization must take action or hold discussions related to public business during “pre-arranged” meetings that are open to the public. Under the proposed changes,unscheduled discussions about public business among the majority of members of a public body would have to be public. Government officials who get together for information-gathering purposes also would have to make those meetings public.
Cincinnati Post

Curtis Morrison, a former spokesman for an anti-Mitch McConnell super PAC, admitted Friday that he secretly taped a strategy session of the Senate GOP leader and his staff and could be indicted by a federal grand jury. "Here's the latest: An assistant U.S. attorney, Brian Calhoun, telephoned my attorney yesterday, asking to meet with him next Friday as charges against me are being presented to a grand jury," Morrison, formerly with Progress Kentucky, wrote on After the recording became public in April, McConnell asked for an FBI investigation. The FBI later confirmed it was looking into the matter.
USA Today

Three federal contractors who are suing for the right to make campaign donations were sent back to square one today on jurisdictional grounds. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that under Federal Election Campaign Act, the merits of such disputes may only be considered by an en banc appellate panel.
Blog of LegalTimes

A federal judge tells Google to comply with the FBI's warrantless National Security Letterrequests for user details, despite ongoing concerns about their constitutionality.

A federal judge lifted a 33-year-old injunction barring public access to a confidential database of Medicare insurance claims, a decision that could lead to greater scrutiny of how physicians treat patients and charge for their services. Judge Marcia Morales Howard ruled Friday in favor of a motion by Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, that the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida lift an injunction imposed in 1979.

The Texas Legislature passed several measures this week designed to improve open government and protect First Amendment interests for journalists and other members of the public. Among the pieces of legislation heading to Gov. Rick Perry for final approval is an update to the Texas Public Information Act, an important amendment to the state’s two-year-old anti-SLAPP statute, and a bill that allows for lesser damages in libel lawsuits if a party affected by a mistake doesn’t ask for a correction or retraction before filing a lawsuit. Perry is expected to approve the measures.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

A North Carolina bill criminalizing undercover investigations into workplace abuses has drawn opposition from at least 25 animal welfare, worker and watchdog groups. A state Senate committee heard Thursday from the bill’s chief backer, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from the main opponent, the Humane Society of the United States. The bill mostly makes changes relating to lawsuits and contracts, but it also contains a section making it a crime for an employee to lie or withhold requested information during the application process to later capture undercover footage of a workplace. Those employees could be charged with another crime if they don’t turn over footage to law enforcement within 24 hours of recording. Employees violating either provision in North Carolina would face civil penalties.
First Amendment Center

Legislation that would have restricted how online retailers can use customers' personal information died in the California Senate on Thursday amid heavy opposition from business interests and tech groups. The bill, SB 383 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, was an attempt to thwart the state Supreme Court's February ruling in Apple v. Superior Court (Krescent). In a 4-3 decision, the high court held that the state's retail privacy law does not cover e-commerce. The majority opinion allowed Apple Inc., Ticketmaster and other e-tailers to continue collecting information about their credit card customers — even if an address isn't needed to complete a transaction.
The Recorder

Someone over at WikiLeaks is a bit touchy about the new Alex Gibney documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” which opened Friday, and to which I gave a three-star review. Late Thursday night, the Web-based information clearinghouse posted what it calls an “annotated transcript” of the documentary, offering somewhat hyperventilating, point-by-point rebuttals to several of the statements made in the film, which casts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as something of a sad, embittered man, with little regard for whether his un-redacted disclosures might endanger people.
Washington Post

Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron, Wall Street Journal Washington bureau chief Jerry Seib, New York Daily News Washington bureau chief Jim Warren, New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer and Politico Editor-in-Chief John Harris attended an off-the-record meeting with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.

A teen on the school bus boarded by a gunman who snatched an Alabama boy and then held him in an underground bunker until he was rescued six days later called 911 as the abduction unfolded, FBI tapes show. Details of the hostage drama were unveiled in tapes and photographs released by the FBI late on Friday.

California charter schools would be subject to the same open meeting laws and disclosure requirements as school boards and local governments under a bill passed by the Assembly. Lawmakers passed AB913 by Democratic Assemblyman Ed Chau of Monterey Park on Thursday. The bill now moves to the Senate. Chau says it makes sense to hold the governing bodies of charter schools accountable to the same standards as other public schools because they are funded with taxpayer money.
San Jose Mercury News

A legal battle over Florida political secrets keeps on escalating - and continues to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are three pending lawsuits that contend the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature violated voter-adopted standards when they drew up new legislative and congressional districts last year. The lengthy litigation has already cost taxpayers nearly $1 million since last July. The Florida Senate alone reports it has spent close to $800,000 on its lawyers. In the latest action connected to the legal challenges, a Leon County circuit judge signed an order holding an established Republican consulting firm in contempt for failing to turn over documents connected to the lawsuits.
Miami Herald

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning goes on trial Monday more than three years after he was arrested in Iraq and charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Manning has admitted to sending troves of material to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and pleaded guilty to charges that would send him to prison for up to 20 years. The U.S. military and the Obama administration weren't satisfied, though, and pursued a charge of aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence.
USA Today



Roanoke Times: Gov. Bob McDonnell took an extraordinary step last week when he announced that his administration will create an automatic process for restoring voting rights to nonviolent felons who have fulfilled their sentencing, probation and restitution obligations.

Register & Bee: While it’s sometimes hard to change and turn from a life of crime or a one-time, serious mistake, it has been done and it can be done. McDonnell, a former prosecutor and attorney general, understands that, and this week, the governor gave Virginia’s felons another way back.

Dan Casey, Roanoke Times: School is now out, but lessons are always useful. Today we’ll have one on the term “fraud.” It means to intentionally deceive for personal gain, or to damage another. This is taught in every law school in the land, including at George Mason University, where Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli earned his shingle. Now he’s the Republican nominee for governor. The question of the day is, did Cuccinelli learn his law school lessons about fraud? His tenure as attorney general leaves you wondering. Let’s consider two prominent fraud cases Cuccinelli has been mixed up in. The first concerns former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann, who’s now at Penn State. The second case involves an alleged Florida con man who, under the fake identity “Bobby Thompson,” created and ran the U.S. Navy Veterans Association scam.

Times-Dispatch: The line is a classic. As the warden in “Cool Hand Luke” looks down on Luke, the prisoner, he says in a voice from central casting, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Recent events tempt residents of central Virginia to assume that Strother Martin’s character was describing local government. The lesson is clear — communicate, be transparent. Don’t give the warden an excuse to intervene.

Craig Fehrman, Los Angeles Times: It offers a rallying point for the myth of a gentle and just South dragged into the War of Northern Aggression. This spring will be remembered, by history junkies at least, for the opening of a major new institution, one named after a polarizing leader, devoted to a divisive period, subsidized by taxpayers and stationed in the South. I'm not talking about the presidential library of George W. Bush but the "presidential library" of Jefferson Davis, the one and only chief executive of the Confederate States of America, which will be dedicated Monday in Biloxi, Miss.