Transparency News, 7/13/20


July 13, 2020
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state & local news stories
"They’re still doing lots and lots of government business. But there is no reason why citizens should lose the ability to keep track of ordinary government business."
Albemarle County says it is no longer obligated to respond to public records requests within a given timeline. The Board of Supervisors “extended indefinitely” the state-mandated deadlines for responding to Freedom of Information Act requests in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The move is alarming to watchdog groups that advocate for open government. “They are still doing government business,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit that advocates for expanded access to government records, meetings and other proceedings.  “They’re still doing lots and lots of government business. And thank goodness. But there is no reason why citizens should lose the ability to keep track of ordinary government business.”
Charlottesville Tomorrow

On the eve of a scheduled court hearing involving a member of the Suffolk School Board’s dispute with the rest of the board about open-meetings laws, another issue with it came up during its July 9 meeting. After coming out of a closed meeting to discuss Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III’s performance evaluation, members took a required vote to certify it. During that vote, the member suing the other members of the board, Sherri Story, voted no. None of the exchange that followed is on the video of the meeting posted on the division’s YouTube page, as it ends with the board moving into its second closed meeting of the evening. “And the reason why I’m voting no, which I have a right to do,” Story said, “is because the last 10 minutes turned into an evaluation of me from the superintendent.”
Suffolk News-Herald

A judge ruled against Onley Mayor Matt Hart in a civil case Hart brought against the town after the town council in June approved a resolution censuring the mayor, following a closed session at a special meeting in May. Judge Sam D. Eggleston III, of the Lynchburg General District Court, ruled the town of Onley did not violate FOIA in any of the mayor’s allegations,” a statement [on the town's website] said. Eggleston ruled against Hart on three issues he raised in his complaint: first, that the notice of the special meeting, sent by email to Hart, did not comply with state law; second that the subject of the closed meeting did not fall within the permitted exceptions to the open meeting requirement of the FOIA; and third, that the motion to go into closed session did not comply with the FOIA.
Eastern Shore Post
Read the 2-page opinion on the Town of Onley's website

Sick of her complaining about getting the wrong medications. Sick of treating her diabetes. Sick of not being able to understand her Spanish. Moments later, a swarm of guards dragged [Carmen Miranda] out of the pod, slamming her face into metal near a doorway. Miranda claims she filled out complaint forms about the beating, copies of which were provided to The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press. When The Pilot requested video of the incident, Smith said there was none. But three days after the incident, some of Miranda’s family members got on a call with Deputy Superintendent Lt. Colonel E. Bower and recorded the conversation. On it, Bower clearly states that video exists.
The Virginian-Pilot

stories of national interest
A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered videos of a landmark 2010 trial that led to the striking down of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage be released next month. U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled Thursday that the videos of the case initially called Perry v. Schwarzenegger be unsealed Aug. 12, rejecting arguments from social conservatives who sought to keep the recordings under wraps. A coalition of news media outlets, including POLITICO, urged the court to make the videos public because of the public interest in the case about Proposition 8, which was approved in 2008.