Transparency News 6/8/18



June 8, 2018


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state & local news stories


“My goal in life is to treat everybody the exact same way, either the mayor or whether you’re a citizen.”

PETA filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture on Thursday, alleging that the government department has violated the Freedom of Information Act. The animal advocacy group filed 17 FOIA requests in early December 2016 and have yet to get a response on any of them, said Delcianna Winders, PETA Foundation vice president and deputy general counsel.
The Virginian-Pilot

In a separate FOIA request received June 6, an additional 24 churches are due to receive refunds after being charged demand under rate 50 for up to five years. Those churches were moved from rate 50 in April 2018. After ten churches that receive power from Danville Utilities received a total of $216,894.43 in refunds after being categorized under the incorrect rate for the previous five years, the Star-Tribune obtained information from Jason Grey, Director of Danvile Utilities for those that are on rate 15. Under rate 15, churches are exempt from demand charges. “We don’t know exactly when the error happened. Five years is what we’re allowed in the policy,” Grey said.

Amanda Barnes, who was appointed to the position of Virginia Beach city clerk in January, is working on a number of projects, including improving the way citizens interact with city leaders. The clerk’s office, in addition to maintaining a variety of public documents, works closely with the City Council to prepare and maintain its records. The clerk’s office also helps the public sign up as participants in public meetings and handles budgeting for the office and for the City Council. And it also helps citizens with their passports.  These interactions with citizens are very important, she said. “We have a ton of contact with the public,” she said. “My goal in life is to treat everybody the exact same way, either the mayor or whether you’re a citizen.” Her office is also working to assist the public with records requests, which have become more common – and more voluminous – over the years.
The Princess Anne Independent News

In a handful of files documenting complaints against the police department, officers have forgotten to write down dates, outcomes of internal investigations and other small details, a city audit recently found. But the problems in the police department’s Internal Affairs division, which investigates use-of-force incidents and complaints against officers, are already being fixed. Lyndon Remias, Virginia Beach’s auditor, presented his findings Tuesday to the City Council. Police Chief Jim Cervera requested the audit in October. “While the findings were considered to be of insignificant risk, there were several areas identified for process improvement,” Cervera wrote in response to the audit. Overall, the results show “transparency for our citizens and confidence in our police agency,” he said.
The Virginian-Pilot


stories of national interest

The Justice Department is opening up about the advice it has given to lobbyists who work for foreign governments and political interests. For the first time, the public will be able to read advisory opinions the department has issued to lobbyists, public relations professionals and others about whether they need to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
AP News