Transparency News, 7/21/21


July 21, 2021
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state & local news stories
The Virginia Beach School Board voted down an effort to make mask-wearing optional next fall. After the vote, people in the audience shouted at board members, calling out “recall, recall.” The public comment period lasted about three hours and was interrupted numerous times by speakers who didn’t follow the board’s rules and tried to speak on topics that weren’t on the agenda. Several shouted over Chairwoman Carolyn Rye when she gaveled down out-of-order speakers and warned them to stay on topic. Twice, Rye called for a recess after speakers ignored the warnings. After the second recess, Rye told speakers they had “one more chance.” Disruptions continued throughout the rest of the meeting, with Rye gaveling down board members as well as public speakers on either side of the debate.
The Virginian-Pilot

A federal judge has again denied attempts from rally lawsuit defendant and fake news purveyor Jim Hoft to subpoena a slew of nonparties, this time several TV news stations and reporters. Hoft, of The Gateway Pundit, is among various defendants in the Gilmore v. InfoWars lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Brennan Gilmore, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer who says he was the subject of various false articles in the wake of the 2017 Unite the Right rally. Hoft’s subpoenas appeared to be primarily concerned with footage shot from a Virginia State Police helicopter of the rally and car attack. The footage, which was used as evidence in the July 2019 federal sentencing of James Alex Fields Jr., was, and still is, publicly available. Hoft's attorney argued that if a reporter was “tipped off” about the footage, then that could show collusion between the media and the government.“You know that James Fields’ sentencing was public?” U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe responded. “The state case and the federal case where this exhibit was introduced to the public. It was open proceedings, so any member of the public and media could attend if they chose.”
The Daily Progress

Prince William County officials are interviewing current and former police department officials about an allegation of a racial slur. Meanwhile, the county’s Racial and Social Justice Commission held another argument-filled meeting as it examines equity in Prince William’s government. An update on the investigation was one of four items added to the agenda by Coles District Commissioner Charles Haddow. The meeting stretched on after the commission spent about an hour debating Robert’s Rules of Order around one of Haddow’s agenda items. Haddow, one of the most outspoken commissioners, has become somewhat of a lightning rod on the panel as its full meetings have been marked with his objections, hangups and prolonged debates on numerous procedural matters. He has sparred with other members who say he cuts them off or speaks over them, and he engages in frequent heated debates on procedure with Raul Torres, executive director of the Office of Human Rights. Haddow has said he believes it’s important to follow proper procedure in conducting public business. He has said the three panelists appointed by Republican members of the Board of Supervisors are treated differently than other commissioners, even pointing out that they are all sitting on one side of the dais together. Commissioner Jahanzeb Akbar (At-Large) said the seating arrangement was alphabetical order and those commissioners’ names just fell together.

Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood wants you to stop and take a look around. Since joining the Town Council, and ramping up since his election as mayor in 2018, Wood has been trying to let the world know what Prince William County’s biggest incorporated town has to offer. Now Wood is taking to the airwaves. Wood recently kicked off his Spotlight Dumfries podcast to highlight people, places and events in town. The podcast is not directly affiliated with the town government and doesn’t receive town funds.

The Warren County School Board picked Melanie Salins to fill a seat left open by a member’s recent resignation. The board voted at a special Monday meeting to appoint Salins as the North River District’s representative. Former member Arnold M. Williams Jr. resigned from the board in June because he moved out of the district. Salins’ first meeting will be Aug. 4. At the Monday meeting, board members interviewed the four applicants in a closed session and then voted to appoint Salins when they came out into open session, Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said Tuesday.
The Northern Virginia Daily

Candice Vande Brake, a parent who’s spoken repeatedly against Critical Race Theory at recent Isle of Wight County School Board meetings, has started a petition on to recall Windsor District board member Julia Perkins over the issue. To support her belief that CRT is indeed influencing Isle of Wight County’s curriculum, Vande Brake obtained a copy of a February 2019 letter from the Virginia Department of Education to all division superintendents via a Freedom of Information Act request. In that letter, State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane references the department’s statewide EdEquityVA initiative and recommends school leaders read “White Fragility” by anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo, a term referring to the defensive moves white people make when challenged racially, and “Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education” by Edward Taylor, David Gillborn and Gloria Ladson-Billings. Vande Brake’s petition accuses Perkins of “failing her district’s children by hiding and not asking the questions she was hired to ask by the people she represents.”
The Smithfield Times

Parents in Virginia’s largest school district say they have collected enough signatures to file a recall petition against a Fairfax County School Board member over her handling of school reopening during the pandemic. Members of the Open FCPS Coalition — an advocacy group that formed during the pandemic to push for reopening schools — have gathered more than 5,000 signatures on a petition to recall board member Elaine Tholen (Dranesville), according to Rory Cooper, a signatory and parent who helped with the recall effort. That crosses a threshold and means the recall petition will now go before a circuit court, where a Virginia judge will decide if a trial is warranted, according to Cooper. The Open FCPS Coalition is seeking recalls for three of the 12 elected board members: Tholen, Abrar Omeish (At Large) and Laura Jane Cohen (Springfield). Cooper wrote in an email Monday that they are targeting these three because of their stated views on school reopening, and because of their failure to “[press] the superintendent to plan better.”
The Washington Post
stories from around the country
Across Tampa Bay, Fla., law enforcement agencies say they take concerns over racial profiling seriously. But when the Tampa Bay Times requested comprehensive traffic stop databases from six major police departments and sheriff’s agencies in the area — statistics readily available in some U.S. jurisdictions and that experts say is necessary for a thorough analysis — none could provide them.  Three agencies shared reports that captured demographic breakdowns of citations and warnings, a limited view of total traffic stops. Criminal justice researchers say collecting deeper data on all traffic stops allows agencies to identify disparities and patterns that go beyond individual complaints. And they say making that information easily accessible to the public is crucial for accountability. Increasing accountability and transparency have been persistent demands in the wake of protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder.