Transparency News 7/17/19



July 17, 2019


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state & local news stories


"...he told a businessman he would write a letter to the editor in the local newspaper about the incident and the county might not do business with him."

For nearly an hour last week, city employees talked to Virginia Beach City Council members about how they were doing in the aftermath of the May 31 mass shooting at the Municipal Center in which 16 people were shot, with 12 killed. Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten arranged the session after she spoke with staff members who wanted to have an open dialogue with the council. The problem was the meeting turned out to be illegal. During a July 2 workshop, Councilwoman Jessica Abbott pointed out that the event would need to be advertised as a public meeting if more than two council members showed up, which City Attorney Mark Stiles confirmed. Five council members — Sabrina Wooten, Bobby Dyer, Barbara Henley, Rosemary Wilson and Michael Berlucchi — attended, according to City Clerk Amanda Barnes. 
The Virginian-Pilot

A divided Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate Coy Harville, who represents the Westover District on the Pittsylvania County Service Authority Board. The board, following a closed meeting, chose to terminate Harville because of comments he made to a local businessman in December. The board did not name the businessman nor did it explain the initial incident that led to the comment. Harville, addressing the board, said he told the businessman he would write a letter to the editor in the local newspaper about the incident and the county might not do business with him. Supervisor Ronald Scearce characterized the interaction with the businessman as “good old boy bully stuff.”
Register & Bee

Front Royal Town Council members on July 15 held a roughly 15-minute work session before heading into a closed meeting regarding the Town’s disposition of publicly held real property.  Specifically, Town Council members needed to discuss an application by Front Royal Town Councilman Chris Holloway, who owns the privately held Chris Holloway Construction LLC in Front Royal, Va., to purchase or have a portion of an unimproved right-of-way on Carter Street vacated by the Town. While further details were scant on Monday night, the right-of-way request went behind closed doors because “discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of Town Council,” according to the work session agenda.
Royal Examiner

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority and its former executive director Jennifer McDonald are disputing what documents should be presented in the authority’s $17.6 million embezzlement and misappropriation civil case against her and eight other defendants. The EDA’s attorneys recently filed a motion in circuit court asking that McDonald, along with MoveOn8 and DaBoyz — two limited liability companies she owned — to turn over a number of documents. Even if the motion to get the request for insurance policies is thrown out, McDonald’s lawyers will nonetheless receive them. Dan Whitten, county and EDA attorney, said that her lawyers filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the insurance policies, which was to be approved and turned over Monday.
The Northern Virginia Daily


stories of national interest

Rhode Island is one of about a dozen states that prohibit the release of 911 recordings or transcripts without the written consent of the caller or by court order. The goal generally is to protect the privacy of callers in what may be one of the most stressful moments of their lives. But Rhode Island’s restrictive law also keeps families in the dark about how the state’s 911 system has responded to calls involving their loved ones, and it has left the public oblivious to troubling gaps in how the system is performing, according to an investigation by The Public’s Radio and ProPublica. Across the country, recordings of 911 calls for accidents, medical emergencies, mass shootings and natural disasters have provided insight into the workings of public safety systems and, in some cases, revealed critical failings. But states across the country are looking to curb access, a trend that troubles media representatives and others.

Evanston, Illinois, aldermen on Monday backed away from formally censuring City Clerk Devon Reid over allegations of harassment and retaliation made by city employees. The decision followed more than an hour of public comment from residents who were largely in support of Reid. Many accused the council of pursuing the employees’ complaints as retaliation against Reid for suing the city over Freedom of Information Act practices in May. The city hired an outside attorney to investigate the harassment complaints, and found them to be warranted, officials said. In response to calls from the audience for more information, aldermen said their job is to protect city workers and they could not release names of accusers and the exact details of the allegations due to state law. Hagerty said that along with the healthy workplace violations, Reid also is accused of violating the state Open Meetings Act by taking a recording of a closed session meeting out of City Hall and to his home, which is illegal under Illinois rules.
Chicago Tribune

For the first time, a federal court in Ohio is releasing a trove of data that offers far more detail about the size and scope of the nation's opioid epidemic — and about the role played by drug companies and pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens and Johnson & Johnson that profited from the rapid growth of prescription opioid sales. Some drug companies fought in court to keep the information secret, arguing that it contains proprietary details about their business practices. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also resisted releasing the data, arguing that it included sensitive information used by law enforcement. But a large portion of the searchable database, known as ARCOS, is set to be released in an order signed by Judge Dan Polster on Monday.

The director of Iowa's social services agency was a huge fan of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, and he frequently let his subordinates know it. Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees lauding Shakur's music and lyrics even after at least one complained to lawmakers. Then last month, he sent another such email to all 4,300 agency employees. He was abruptly ousted from his job the next work day. The agency released 350 pages of emails with the words "Tupac" or "2Pac" sent to and from Foxhoven during his two-year tenure in response to an AP request. 
USA Today