Transparency News 7/11/18



July 11, 2018


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state & local news stories


"Park Police and the FBI have maintained their silence for nearly eight months."

The family of Bijan Ghaisar, the motorist shot dead by two unidentified U.S. Park Police officers last November, has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Park Police and the Justice Department seeking the names of the officers and information about why they killed the 25-year-old accountant. Both the Park Police and the FBI, which took over the investigation three days after the Nov. 17 shooting, have refused to provide details about the case or identify the two officers involved. The officers have not been charged and were placed on administrative leave with pay. Ghaisar’s family has waited in anguish for information about the case, holding protests and seeking meetings with federal officials, but the Park Police and the FBI have maintained their silence for nearly eight months.
The Washington Post

The Amelia County School Board fired Superintendent Jack McKinley on Monday, providing few details in an announcement that followed the closed-door meeting in which the decision was made. The School Board clerk declined to provide additional details beyond the statement, and four of the five School Board members didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. On Tuesday evening, the school system’s website still listed McKinley as superintendent. Over the past year, parents have voiced concerns over thousands spent on McKinley’s office furniture in addition to meals and event fees for the school system. Parents began taking a close look at the school system’s invoices amid cost-saving measures put in place to help keep money available, including restrictions on using classroom refrigerators and other appliances and canceling a day of classes before winter break.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Dominion Energy's tenfold increase in spending to influence Virginia politicians was prompted by the spread of "fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups," a company spokesman said. Recently filed disclosure forms show the state's biggest electric utility and most politically powerful company spent more than $1 million on lobbyists, entertainment, meals and communications from May 2017 to the end of April 2018. That's about 10 times what the company said it spent in last year's filing. The spending came during a period when the company successfully pushed through legislation that could lead to substantial increases to electric bills. Dominion spokesman David Botkins said the company's stepped up "education outreach" was needed "to break through the fake news and propaganda perpetuated by anti-energy groups."
Richmond Times-Dispatch

It used to be a scanner or an internet connection was all you needed to listen in on Richmond City’s police radio traffic. But no more. This month Richmond joined a growing list of Virginia localities encrypting their radio systems. Virginia Beach is also taking steps to stop the public from listening in. “If you happen to have a tail light out in your car that you might not even know about and a police officer stops you, there’s a relatively good chance that your name, date of birth, address, maybe even social security number could be broadcast over that air,” says Roanoke County’s Chief of Police Howard Hall.


stories of national interest

Illinois Public Radio reported a college professor who performed his own audit of how local governments in Illinois handle Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests found the results were better than expected. IPR said A. Jay Wagner, who is now with Marquette University, contacted agencies in 34 Illinois counties.   He said 80% responded in the time allowed by law.  But a few smaller counties had trouble responding in a timely fashion.