Transparency News 6/4/13


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

memberState and Local Stories

The Virginia Attorney General's Office said a recent advisory opinion about Hampton's cigarette sting did not weigh in on whether expenditures during the undercover operation should have followed government spending rules. A Daily Press story on Saturday interpreted Friday's opinion by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as saying that laws on government spending should have been followed during Hampton's 19-month sting — including that such cash could only be spent at the direction of the City Council. But the attorney general's office said Saturday that the opinion didn't address the handling of expenditures during the sting. Instead, the office said, the opinion focused specifically on whether government spending laws must be followed for remaining assets — such as $700,000 and nine cars in a parking lot at Fort Monroe. "I was trying to be more general than just the money left over," City Attorney Cynthia Hudson said. "I was interested in knowing the application of the appropriations requirement as it pertained to both the money as it was churned, or coming in, as well as to the money left over from the operation." She added: "I felt my question was broad enough to cover my interest in both categories of funds ... and my understanding was that any answer I received would apply to both."
Daily Press

The Roanoke City Council voted itself a hefty 28.5 percent pay increase, but by a narrow enough margin to force a second vote later this month to confirm its move. The 4-3 vote Monday also gave the city's mayor, who serves on the council and who voted for the increase, a 15 percent salary boost. The vote, if confirmed, would increase council members's pay from $15,560 to $20,000, beginning next year after the next city election. It boosts the mayor's pay from $20,000 to $23,000.
Roanoke Times

Orange County on Monday announced the launch of a new county website. The Board of Supervisors approved the site with the 2013 fiscal year budget, according to a release, in an effort to enhance communication and interaction between the government and its citizens. The county officials said the new site offers improved functionality for its users, a citizen input section, and an alert center and “notify me” function. The site also includes enhanced access to items such as the board's meeting agendas and minutes, an event calendar, job opportunities and bid postings.
Daily Progress

It was a move that rocked the county, and despite public outcry over his recent walkout from a crucial vote, Dist. 3 Supervisor John Haynes has remained silent. Since that pivotal May 16 hearing, much conjecture has been bandied about the county as to Haynes’ motive behind abstaining from the county’s final budget approval, which was approved 3-1, with Dist. 2 Member Jean Harper dissenting. A recent email uncovered by the Northern Neck News though the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, however, has perhaps shed some light on Haynes’ choice to abstain from what many consider to be the most important decision county officials make during a fiscal year.
Northern Neck News

National Stories

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether a protester who was barred from a military base in California violated a federal law when he took part in demonstrations on a public roadway that crosses government-owned land. The government asked the justices to overturn a lower court ruling in favor of the protester, John Apel. He successfully argued in a federal appeals court that the law, which prevents people from re-entering bases after they are barred, applies only to land over which the military has exclusive authority.

The U.S. Justice Department today defended the accuracy of Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s testimony about his role in leak prosecutions, refuting the notion among critics that he misled members of Congress and opened himself up to a potential perjury charge.
Blog of LegalTimes

The Tampa socialite whose complaints about cyberstalking exposed the affair that brought down David Petraeus filed a lawsuit Monday that accuses federal officials of violating her privacy. Jill Kelley and her husband, Scott, filed the lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia seeking an apology and unspecified damages from what they say were willful leaks by federal officials of false and damaging information about them. Those officials should have been protecting them and their privacy, they say.
USA Today

The Obama administration expanded its efforts to shine the light on hospital pricing Monday, making public charges for outpatient services from its vast trove of Medicare claims. It follows a move last month to publicize the often wild variation in charges for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. Experts say it’s part of a long-delayed transition to price transparency for an industry that’s been largely protected from it in the past.

The wife of an Alabama state senator has apparently taken to Facebook to warn that women, or possibly fake women, stop sending pictures of themselves to her husband, or face public scorn. "It is a shame that people are so heartless that they would try to split up families," McGill wrote. "We have children that look at our face books from time to time! Shame on you! You know who you are. Next time everyone will know who you are!! For I will publicly share your name before we 'unfriend' you."

California lawmakers on Monday voted to allow the public to be excluded from certain gatherings that include the governor and county officials. The state Senate sent to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk a measure created in reaction to a legal opinion by a county prosecutor. The official said a private 2011 meeting between Brown and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors violated the public's right to see government business being conducted. At that closed-door meeting, Brown and the supervisors discussed his controversial plan, dubbed "realignment," to begin holding nonviolent felons and certain other low-level offenders in county jails rather than send them to state lockups. The plan followed federal court orders to reduce prison crowding. Such conversations would be permitted behind closed doors under the new legislation.
Los Angeles Times

Families of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting last December are gathering online signers to a petition asking Connecticut legislators to block the release of gory crime scene photographs and other evidence. The petition, posted on, had more than 50,000 signers Monday evening.
USA Today


Peter Galuszka, Washington Post: When it comes to what is wrong with government accountability in Virginia, a luncheon scene last week said it all. At tables in a banquet hall at the downtown Richmond Marriott sat scores of lobbyists, lawyers, politicians and corporate executives.