Transparency News 6/6/14

Friday, June 6, 2014

State and Local Stories

Pricillia E. Burnett, who lost a narrow bid for re-election May 6 for the Newport News School Board, has filed a petition in Newport News Circuit Court contesting the results of the election. The petition, filed Wednesday, names the Newport News Registrar's Office and the Newport News Electoral Board as defendants. Burnett initially said she would seek a recount in her race, which she lost to challenger Douglas Brown, but because she lost her election by more than one percent, she is ineligible for one by state law. Burnett lost by just 55 votes in the North district race, 1,132 to 1,077. "This is the United States. We have a democracy," Burnett said. "People should know who they voted for. The outcome would be different if they did another election."
Daily Press

A University of Virginia School of Law School administrator accidentally sent an email Wednesday with a spreadsheet attached to 155 law students that contained their GPAs, class ranks and personal biographical information, officials confirmed Thursday. On Wednesday, Ruth Payne, UVa’s director of judicial clerkships, sent an email via a school mass mailing list, but forgot to attach details about hiring information for positions in Maryland. Realizing the mistake, Payne sent a follow-up email but inadvertently attached a file titled “2015 Applicants Workbook,” which included the personal information, legal website Above the Law reported. Six minutes later, the website said, all of UVa Law’s clerkship applicants received a third email from Payne asking them to delete the previous email. This week’s error is the most recent in a string of accidental disclosures of personal information at UVa in the last several years.
Daily Progress

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors is deeply divided ideologically, according to a consultant who spoke with the board Thursday afternoon. Richard P. Chait, an expert on university governance, presented the results of an anonymous survey of board members and high-ranking administrators at a meeting of the Special Committee on Governance and Engagement. “You are rather united in the view that you’re rather divided as a board,” he quipped. Fortunately, he said, the two sides have common ground: All respondents agreed they need to communicate more often, and that the administration should give members updates on ongoing issues and projects at least once a month. “I think there are reasons to be optimistic about better shared governance,” Chait said. “Both management and the board are self-critical. No one doubts anyone else’s intentions.” Finally, there are questions about the roles of individual board members — whether there should be a limit on data requests, for example, or members’ interactions with the media. Data requests can be burdensome to administrators, Chait said, and can be used as a bludgeon by board members with a grudge against the administration. Some members also complained about public comments they see as undermining the board — particularly when a dissenter goes to the press to express dissatisfaction with a decision. Bobbie G. Kilberg asked whether other boards have codes of conduct that deal with talking to the press; Chait said it’s common in many private institutions. Dragas said any policy muzzling dissenting members would be “anti-Jeffersonian.”
Daily Progress

A Campbell County judge today delayed until Wednesday a preliminary hearing ruling whether or not court attendees can wear shirts bearing the face of the deceased during a murder triallater this month.
News & Advance

Tempers flared again among some Shenandoah County leaders Thursday over a proposal to videotape the Board of Supervisors meetings. At the end of the board's regular work session, District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey asked that Vice Chairman Conrad Helsley disclose the identity of donors he says have offered to cover some of the costs for equipment needed to videotape the meetings. Helsley continued to hold his ground on the issue, saying video would let viewers see how board members react to situations during the meetings. At the end of the short but loud debate, Helsley said he still would not disclose the identity of the donor. While an outspoken advocate of government transparency, Bailey says she sees the addition of video to the audio already provided to the public as an unnecessary expense at this time. Bailey said Helsley should disclose the identity of his donor or donors in the interest of transparency. “I’d like to know what you promised those donors for giving you that money," Bailey said. "You're calling me a crook?" Helsley snapped.
Northern Virginia Daily

National Stories

About a dozen protestors brought signs to the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex on May 28 to protest proposed amendments to the Cherokee Nation’s Freedom of Information and Governmental Records acts that were slated for that day’s Rules Committee meeting.  The protestors also presented a petition to the Tribal Council and Principal Chief’s Office requesting the amendments not be approved. However, councilors amended both acts later in the day. One FOIA change included creating a position in the Attorney General’s Office to handle FOI requests and requests from councilors under the GRA. Other amendments extended the allotted time to complete a public records request from 15 days to 20 days, allowing only CN citizens to make records requests and establishing a timeline for which a governmental body must keep documents.
Cherokee Phoenix

After 30 minutes of public arguments, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit called a closed-door “secret hearing” on Wednesday in the U.S. government’s appeal of an Illinois district court decision to open certain surveillance records to defense attorneys with top security clearances. The three-judge panel ordered everyone without sufficient security clearance out of the courtroom, including reporters and the attorneys to defendant-appellee Adel Daoud. Daoud, who the government has suspected of terrorist activities, was charged with attempting to ignite a bomb at a Chicago bar in 2012. In the public part of the hearing, a U.S. attorney argued that disclosure of surveillance records could harm national security. Judge Richard Posner then ordered the secret meeting, clearing the courtroom of everyone except those with proper security clearance, namely a U.S. attorney and FBI and Department of Justice officials.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

When Nashville attorney Alan Turk was hired to represent 2 Live Crew in a copyright infringement lawsuit more than 20 years ago, he had no idea he was walking into the most noteworthy case of his long legal career, with ramifications for everything from Saturday Night Live to modern hip-hop. "You don't often realize when something is going to be important," Turk said. "In fact I think it's fair to say this is the most important case I've ever been involved in, and I had no idea that was going to happen when I accepted." Turk was a litigator, not an entertainment attorney, by trade when 2 Live Crew, a popular Miami rap group led by Luther Campbell, hired him. The group had asked permission from Nashville publishing company Acuff-Rose to use Roy Orbison's Oh, Pretty Woman in a new song. Citing concerns that a rap parody would harm the reputations of the song and the company, Acuff-Rose refused, but 2 Live Crew went ahead and released Pretty Woman, and then was sued for copyright infringement.
USA Today

The Delaware Supreme Court dismissed an appeal this week of an order requiring Al Jazeera to file an almost completely unredacted version of its complaint against AT&T from a 2013 contract dispute. Despite having both parties file briefs and deliver oral arguments, the high court threw out the appeal without explaining why. In an opinion piece for Reuters, Alison Frankel wrote, “Perhaps the Supreme Court wants to see how other Chancery Court judges interpret the new rule before it offers definitive guidance.” But David Finger, the attorney representing the reporters in this case, says a recent filing made by Al Jazeera might have influenced the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the case.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The Electronic Frontier Foundation asked a judge yesterday to schedule an emergency hearing, after learning that the government is apparently still destroying evidence of NSA spyingdespite a temporary restraining order issued by the court in March. In an order issued in response this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White instructed the government not to destroy any more materials and file a brief responding to EFF's allegations by 12 p.m PT on Friday.
Electronic Frontier Foundation