Transparency News 7/11/19



July 11, 2019


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state & local news stories


During its heyday, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression was known for calling out censorship with its Muzzle awards and for launching the Downtown Mall’s Free Speech Wall in 2006, where luminaries like John Grisham and Dahlia Lithwick turned out to chalk the first messages on the monument. Former Daily Progress owner Tom Worrell founded the center in 1989 with a reported $3.5 million gift and bestowed its unwieldy moniker. Worrell, who was on UVA’s Board of Visitors, offered the job of leading the new free speech institute to outgoing UVA president and constitutional law expert Bob O’Neil [VCOG's founding board president]—who later said changing the name was nonnegotiable. Attorney Josh Wheeler succeeded O’Neil in 2011 and has been in private practice for the past two years. He did not respond to calls from C-VILLE. The center’s shutdown leaves unresolved the fate of the Free Speech Wall, which has become the go-to site for protesters over its 13 years as a mall landmark.

A jury trial is no longer being sought to resolve a lawsuit filed over Charlottesville City Council votes to remove two Confederate statues downtown. In a letter to both parties dated July 6, [the judge] wrote that he found the councilors are immune for their votes because they were not grossly negligent and did not make an unauthorized appropriation of funds. Moore left the option open for the councilors to remain in the suit as parties, if they wished.
The Daily Progress 

Intruders broke into Arlington County’s employee payroll system recently and were able to alter the paychecks of an undisclosed number of county workers, police said Wednesday. Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage would not say exactly when the break-in occurred, when it was discovered or how many people were affected, citing an ongoing investigation.
The Washington Post 

Two members of Berryville Town Council on Tuesday criticized Mayor Patricia Dickinson over comments she made in a recent letter to the editor of The Winchester Star. Dickinson did not respond to their remarks. Her letter, published on June 20, concerned a Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request she submitted to the town to get information on the status of a plaque honoring Clarke County residents chosen as Veterans of the Year. She asserted in the letter that the town’s process for handling FOIA requests is “inefficient, fiscally irresponsible, and not compliant with the law.” In addition to criticizing the newspaper’s coverage of the issue, Dickinson wrote in her letter that the town’s FOIA response process is inefficient “because not all of the information requested is provided.” Town Manager Keith Dalton previously said he did not withhold from Dickinson any information he thought was relevant to her request, and he would have provided her any information she wanted, as long as he had it to provide. “The process is not inefficient,” town Recorder Jay Arnold told Dickinson during Tuesday night’s council meeting. “You knew, when you sent the FOIA (request) in, we didn’t have a clerk” to respond to it. 
The Winchester Star 


stories of national interest

Three U.S. senators want a new memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor journalists killed in the line of duty. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is joining Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and fellow Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio on legislation that would establish the memorial. The senators say it would be a privately funded memorial constructed on federal lands in the nation's capital. Collins says the memorial would be a place to remember journalists, photographers and broadcasters who died on the job. She says it would honor those who "sacrificed their lives in the course of providing their fellow citizens with honest and accurate reporting."
U.S. News & World Report 

The C.I.A. is quietly pushing Congress to significantly expand the scope of a law that makes it a crime to disclose the identities of undercover intelligence agents, raising alarms among advocates of press freedoms. The agency has proposed extending a 1982 law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a crime to identify covert officers who have served abroad in the past five years. Under the C.I.A.’s plan, the law would instead apply perpetually to people whose relationships with the intelligence community are classified — even if they live and operate exclusively on domestic soil. Lawmakers have attached the C.I.A.’s proposed language to defense and intelligence bills moving through Congress. The provisions have sparked objections among press freedom and government transparency advocates. Potential amendments to the House intelligence bill must be submitted by Thursday to be considered when it comes to the House floor.
The New York Times 

Legal watchdog First Liberty Institute has joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's lawsuit demanding records be made public about the city of San Antonio's decision to ban Chick-fil-A from the airport. In March, the San Antonio City Council voted to ban the popular chicken fast food restaurant from the airport, citing Chick-fil-A's charitable giving to organizations like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Fox News