Transparency News, 6/4/21


June 4, 2021
There was no newsletter yesterday, June 3.

state & local news stories

Before the final budget makes it to the August County Board of Supervisors, it’s passed through departments and administrators, slimmed down and shaped up into a comprehensive proposed booklet every year. Some items get buried in the thousands of pages of department requests — important, but not important enough. So what does the board of supervisors really see during the budget process, and what never makes it to the board room floor? The News Leader wrote a story on how Pam Carter, a member of Augusta County Board of Supervisors couldn’t recall a specific request from the sheriff’s department for body cameras. Carter didn’t buy Garber’s clarification and she pointed out how Sheriff Donald Smith’s Facebook post sounded as if the board was specifically asked to fund body cameras.The very next day, Sheriff Donald Smith posted on his official Facebook page pictures of his budget requests that he sent to the county which appeared to show line-item requests for in-dash camera equipment. Which brings us back to Pam Carter's comments. So it's possible that Carter, Garber and Sheriff Smith all are telling the truth because they're looking at different aspects of a process large enough to bury a request for something specific so deep that nobody sees it or talks about it.
News Leader

The Town of Strasburg will no longer offer public meetings over Zoom starting June 8 as announced at a work session Tuesday night. Interim Town Manager Jay McKinley said the town will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as a recent executive order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. The town has been allowing citizens, town staff and council members to attend and interact with town officials during meetings over the Zoom conferencing platform. The meetings may still be viewed online via a Swagit system, but participation will only be allowed in-person, McKinley explained. Attendance will be limited by the number of chairs that can be setup 6-feet apart, the recommended separation distance to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The town invested about $36,000 of Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Stability Act funds to upgrade video equipment and visual displays, which will be used for broadcasting the meetings online. The meetings will be available to the public for viewing later, McKinley stated by email Wednesday.
The Northern Virginia Daily

Gun rights supporters had accused Mayor Mike Duman of betrayal, while the daughter of a former City Councilman whose son died in a shooting just wanted him to be remembered. That was the backdrop for an emotionally-charged public comment period during the June 2 Suffolk City Council meeting as dozens addressed a Gun Violence Awareness Day proclamation that had not been on the agenda but had been talked about on social media. The Gun Violence Awareness Day would be June 4. Ultimately, Duman read the proclamation, but not before more than 90 minutes of public comment about it from more than a dozen people, as well as council members speaking about it later in the meeting.
Suffolk News-Herald
stories from around the country
As the coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world last spring, Science magazine quoted a top Chinese health official saying that the United States and other Western nations were making a “big mistake” by not telling people to mask up. Science magazine stands by its reporting. But the official, George Gao, worried that the comment might upset his longtime friend Anthony S. Fauci, Washington’s leading expert on infectious diseases. So amid the deepening crisis, Gao reached out to clear the air. “I saw the Science interview, how could I say such a word ‘big mistake’ about others? That was journalist’s wording. Hope you understand,” Gao, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote to Fauci in a March 28 email. "Lets work together to get the virus out of the earth.” “I understand completely. No problem,” Fauci wrote back. “We will get through this together.” The previously unreported exchange was among 866 pages of Fauci’s emails obtained by The Washington Post as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Washington Post

Just hours after the police entered her home, guns drawn and warrant to seize her electronics in hand, Rebekah Jones, Florida’s ousted data guru for COVID-19, sent a warning to one of her most secret confidants — Jared Moskowitz, top aide to Gov. Ron DeSantis for the state’s COVID-19 response. “DeSantis sent police to my house. They took all my tech and hardware,” Jones wrote to DeSantis’ director of emergency management on the encrypted app Signal on Dec. 7. It was six months after her high-profile dismissal from the Florida Department of Health after airing concerns about “gross mismanagement” and “progressively misleading” data being presented to the public. One of DeSantis’ most trusted aides and most despised critics had become penpals in the months after she was fired. Shortly after she was shown the door, Jones filed a confidential whistleblower complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, essentially a grievance that says she was punished for speaking out. Documents related to the sealed complaint — including the state’s response — have been obtained by the Herald.
Miami Herald