Transparency News 6/6/13


Thursday, June 6, 2013  
  Yesterday, we needed 9 new members to help us reach our end-of-year goal. We got 1 (thank you!). We still need 8. Will it be YOU? Go to VCOG's membership page.  
  State and Local Stories

Top aides to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) expressed concerns about the governor’s participation in a 2011 event at the governor’s mansion that marked the launch of a dietary supplement made by a major McDonnell campaign donor, according to newly released e-mails. “I don’t understand this? we are doing an event with them?” McDonnell’s communications director Tucker Martin wrote the evening before the event to Mary Shea Sutherland, the chief of staff for first lady Maureen McDonnell, who had organized the luncheon. The documents, released to The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request, provide new information about the circumstances that led the governor and his wife to open the mansion to Star, whose chief executive had paid $15,000 for the catering at the wedding of McDonnell’s daughter three months earlier.
Washington Post

Residents of Isle of Wight's Newport District are circulating a petition calling for the recall of Byron "Buzz" Bailey, vice chairman of the county's Board of Supervisors, over racist emails exchanged with other county officials. The petition calls for Bailey's removal from office for "neglect of duty, misuse of office and/or incompetance in the performance of his duties which has a material adverse effect" on the office of supervisor.
Daily Press

A proposal to revise the way Virginia regulates stormwater runoff at construction sites is drawing the wrath of environmentalists, who say the change would foster secrecy. State officials say they are not reducing transparency but are proposing a way to address the public’s stormwater concerns through proper channels. Under the current rules, anyone can go to a construction site and see the builder’s plan for limiting runoff — for example, how many silt-blocking fences will be installed. But proposed revisions to the permit would eliminate the public’s right to see the plan at the site, the only place it is kept.

A May 22 dinner that brought together the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors and numerous other top county law enforcement and legal officials between the afternoon and evening board meeting sessions was closed to the media. Reporters were told they couldn’t attend the dinner, though access is usually allowed to supervisors’ dinner breaks, during which the board meetings are recessed. While the dinner meeting doesn’t appear to have been illegal, it might create a bad impression, said Megan Rhyne, executive director of Virginia Coalition for Open Government. And meal breaks in general offer an easy chance to veer over the line, she said.

The saga that began with a sex charge last fall ended Wednesday when Christopher J. Dumler quit as Albemarle County supervisor, five days after a judge rejected a petition to remove him. Supervisor Duane E. Snow read Dumler's resignation letter in a supervisors meeting with several protesters and a phalanx of media looking on. Dumler, 28, did not attend.
Daily Progress
Board Chairwoman Ann H. Mallek said she was happy to see protesters take down signs calling for Dumler’s removal. The handwritten, homemade posters became fixtures at county meetings. “I think it’s a good thing for the county that there’s finality here. I think it’s a good thing for Mr. Dumler to have finality,” Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said. “We adopted a process today on how we’ll elect someone in the interim until the special election and we got everyone on board with it. I’m very optimistic about where we are with this.”
Daily Progress

The Amherst County Board of Supervisors may not have followed proper protocol when it hired an attorney to investigate a personnel matter in February, according to information provided by two organizations that specialize in advising government officials on operational procedures. However, at least one area expert, Lynchburg City Attorney Walter Erwin, disagreed with that opinion.
News & Advance

Gov. Bob McDonnell said today that he is looking into his wife's relationship with the Frances G. and James W. McGlothlin Foundation and examining whether he needs to correct his financial disclosure statements. "I think I had understood that she was actually a member of the board," the governor said after speaking at the Governor's Small Business Summit in Henrico County. "And we're looking into that now and if that is an error, I will make a correction to that statement. We disclosed the fact that she had that relationship."
Register & Bee

National Stories

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has requested that the state Legislature grant it an exemption to Wisconsin's long-standing open records law. The proposed legislation, if passed, would directly limit public access to university records and sources of information and diminish independent scrutiny at a time of increasing privatization and corporate influence over the state's flagship university.
Cap Times

The Arkansas House delegation wants to make it easier for the public to track waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government ferreted out by government auditors and investigators. The four Republicans are backing legislation that would require the government to set up a website where inspector general reports would be accessible to the public. “These reports are difficult, at best, to locate and to understand. The Sunshine on Government Act will help the public more easily find and better understand these reports,” said Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro.
Arkansas News

For years, civil liberties groups have alleged that the United States was engaged in "dragnet" surveillance of Americans' phone calls. But because U.S. surveillance activity is shrouded in secrecy, they haven't had proof. Now they appear to. A report from The Guardian newspaper in Great Britain appears to prove that the National Security Agency has been demanding that U.S. telephone carrier Verizon produce calling records of all phone calls made in the United States.

Boston College must turn over 11 confidential interviews with former Irish Republican Army members for an investigation of a 40-year-old murder case in Northern Ireland, but a lower court was wrong to tell the college to release 74 others, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) ruled last week. “After a detailed review of the materials in question, we find that the district court abused its discretion in ordering the production of several of the interviews” because those recordings were not relevant to the federal government's subpoena, Judge Juan Torruella wrote in the court's opinion.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The bill barring the release of murder-scene photos may create headaches for the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission as soon as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signs it. Sooner or later, thecommission will have to decide what the General Assembly meant when it approved legislation Wednesday to protect against "unwarranted invasions of privacy." The new law will most likely give family members the right to keep private the photographs of dead loved ones taken by criminal investigators, said Colleen Murphy, executive director of the FOIC. But she predicted cases will reach the commission that will question the intent of the action the General Assembly took early Wednesday morning as families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims looked on.
Connecticut Post

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee tried to explain tolerance to an audience in Manchester. Most wanted none of it. William C. Killian’s speech was constantly interrupted by boos and heckling Tuesday evening at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center. The meeting was billed as “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society” and was sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee.
First Amendment Center



Times-Dispatch: As the saga involving Gov. Bob McDonnell and Star Scientific has unfolded, many observers might have wondered why no one in the administration seemed to raise a red flag about angles that — from the outside — seem clearly troubling. Turns out someone did. Their concerns had some effect, even if it was not enough. Yet their instincts proved correct. And in raising questions, they performed a dual service by trying to protect the integrity of both the governor and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

News & Advance: When it rains, it pours, goes the old adage. Well, Gov. Bob McDonnell must feel as if he’s in the midst of the greatest deluge since Noah’s flood, given the news about the ever-growing Star Scientific scandal that came out this week. And running throughout all the stories emanating from the Executive Mansion is the fact that, quietly and behind the scenes, the FBI is determing whether to open an official investigation of the administration. Gov. McDonnell needs to address these matters as expeditiously as possible. Never has Virginia had a governor in such a position as this; we don’t need to start now.

John Long, Roanoke Times: One thing about local governments —they generate a lot of extreme feeling, and little of it is positive. If a city council or a board of aldermen does a good job and things go swimmingly, the average voter tends to pay no attention. But when something goes wrong and that same voter has to swerve around a pothole or faces the prospect of diminished services, there is seldom much room for charitable sentiment. I thought of this in the recent furor over pay increases for Roanoke City Council.