Transparency News 7/10/19



July 10, 2019


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state & local news stories


“This is not supposed to be an adversarial process, it’s supposed to be a celebration.” 

In light of last month’s proclamation controversy, Leesburg Town Council will be agreeing to several resolutions that members hope will reduce the chances of future conflict. “This is not supposed to be an adversarial process, it’s supposed to be a celebration,” Councilman Ron Campbell said. “It’s not political, it’s about the people.” During its July 8 work session, council discussed several new rules that would change proclamation procedure significantly. Rules to only sign signatures on proclamations and to not have council members sign for each other received unanimous approval. Council also agreed to change the procedure to get a proclamation to a meeting. Previously, one council member could ask staff to add a proclamation to the agenda, but the rest of council would not know about it until a few days before council met. Council members had to ask to have their signature lines removed from a proclamation if they did not support it. According to council’s proposed rules, every proclamation will require an official council member sponsor and will be shared with council earlier.
Loudoun Times-Mirror 

In the weeks before former King William County Fire Chief Andy Aigner was shown the door, tense and terse emails between Aigner and Supervisor Bob Ehrhart show there was conflict over fire department operations. The email exchanges resulted in a complaint of retaliation and harassment against Ehrhart, according to more than a dozen records provided to the Tidewater Review by King William County under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. On May 3, Aigner said he received several anonymous tips from people concerned about a Mangohick ambulance parked at the Essex Bank on Route 360 advertising the department’s barbecue fundraiser. The complainants wished to remain anonymous due to potential harassment by Ehrhart and the county’s Tea Party, Aigner wrote in an email to Ehrhart, who submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Aigner for the information. Ehrhart requested public records from the county and fire department for standard operating practices and fire dispatch procedures and demanded a meeting on May 13 with Aigner and Tassinari be recorded. The Tidewater Review requested a copy of the audio recording of that meeting, but was told by Tassinari she forbade Ehrhart from recording the meeting. 
Tidewater Review 


stories of national interest

A circuit court judge in Missouri ruled Monday that Republican former governor Eric Greitens did not violate the state’s Sunshine Law — which guarantees “openness in government” — when he and staff members used a “self-destruct” app that automatically deleted their text messages. Jon Beetem, a judge in Cole County, about two hours west of St. Louis, ruled that the messages were never officially retained because they were automatically deleted by the Confide app, the Kansas City Star reported. The newspaper reported in 2017 that Greitens and his staff had been using the app, which allows people to send messages that self-destruct and cannot be screen-grabbed.
The Washington Post 

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that President Donald Trump’s habit of blocking Twitter users he disagrees with violates the First Amendment. A unanimous panel of judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Tuesday upheld the district court ruling finding the president’s prolific use of Twitter for official purposes means that blocking users for being critical amounts to discrimination based on their viewpoints. The case was brought against Trump, his social media guru Dan Scavino and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders by a group of Twitter users who say they were blocked by the president, represented by attorneys with Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute.


quote_3.jpg"The messages were never officially retained because they were automatically deleted by the Confide app."


editorials & columns

quote_3.jpg"Don’t school officials know such censorship will draw more attention, not less?"

Actions by students at two Virginia schools – turning a spotlight on the crumbling conditions of their individual facilities– should shame local and state officials to provide the necessary money to rectify the problems. You would think school administrators would herald the initiative by the teenagers, who, in the best investigative tradition, researched the shortcomings, filmed the deficiencies, and brought attention to longstanding issues.  But in one example, at Maury High School in Norfolk, overzealous school officials removed a student-produced video from the school’s YouTube channel, The Virginian-Pilot reported.  The Norfolk school division’s explanation for the post-publication censorship doesn’t pass the smell test, either.  “There was commentary by the teacher … that was not in line with NPS policy,” a school division spokeswoman said. Don’t school officials know such censorship will draw more attention, not less?
Roger Chesley, Virginia Mercury