Transparency News 6/6/18



June 6, 2018


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state & local news stories


Elected officials secretly texting each other during public meetings may or may not become a problem requiring a statewide fix. But it’s happening enough that a Virginia transparency panel may soon issue guidance to city councils and county boards on the legality of politicians tapping out messages on their phones while conducting public business. On Tuesday, members of a Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council subcommittee focused on open-meeting laws discussed the issue in response to a novel dispute that arose in Loudoun County.
Richmond Times-Dispatch (subscription required)

Culpeper Town Council met briefly Tuesday night to hear public comments about a proposed 50 percent increase in the local tax for a pack of cigarettes. No one spoke for or against it and there was no public feedback either during a second public hearing on the proposed $44.5 million town budget for Fiscal Year 2019. “A smooth process,” said Mayor Mike Olinger to staff. “Thank you.”
Culpeper Star-Exponent


stories of national interest

Rules allowing state agencies to charge for public records received a surprising endorsement last month from the Wyoming Press Association, a traditional advocate for transparency that had previously opposed the fees. The rules crafted by the Department of Administration & Information charge taxpayers for public employee time used to complete a public records request. Opponents — including the WPA —  have argued the rules hurt transparency in Wyoming. Recently-retired WPA director Jim Angell testified before A&I in 2016 that fees could be used as an “obstacle in the way of someone searching for public documents.” But WPA lobbyist Bob Bonnar told a legislative committee in Lander on May 22 that such rules make sense.




editorials & columns


The Texas Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a lower court decision permitting a delayed response to a public records request — potentially negating a law that requires a response to requests within 10 business days. In refusing to consider the case of Hartman Newspapers against Fort Bend County, the high court opens the door to a new form of government denial of public records by allowing agencies to deny a records request until a requestor files a lawsuit.
The Texas Monitor