Transparency News 7/9/19



July 9, 2019


Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


state & local news stories


"It remains unclear how it will be received by the wider public, particularly as momentum grows to limit the role of criminal record searches in employment screenings."

As promised in January, the Supreme Court of Virginia has unveiled an online search engine to look up criminal and traffic cases in all general district courts and nearly all circuit courts. Without any accompanying announcement, search links appeared on the website of the Virginia court system on pages with information about circuit and general district courts. The links lead to a “Terms and Conditions” page with an “Accept” button at the bottom. Next is the search page, labeled “Online Case Information System 2.0.”  It allows for searching by name or case number at either the circuit or general district level or both. Another menu allows limiting the search to specific courts. Simple search queries produced quick results in early tests. Lengthy test results required repeated clicks to “Load More Results.” Disclaimers make it clear that the new system cannot process online payments. Other notices advise that information from Alexandria and Fairfax County circuit courts is not available on the system. Other courts have date limitations or suggest searching using the old, court-specific search tool.
Virginia Lawyers Weekly 
While the new system will make it easier for journalists to, say, vet a candidate for public office or cover breaking news, it remains unclear how it will be received by the wider public, particularly as momentum grows to limit the role of criminal record searches in employment screenings.
Virginia Mercury 

Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday is now also the assistant city manager. City Manager Leon Towarnicki appointed him to the role after the previous assistant city manager, Wayne Knox, retired on June 30. Knox also served as community development director. Towarnicki did not immediately respond to other questions the Bulletin asked by email, including salary and benefit information. He also did not immediately respond to a request to provide a copy of Monday’s contract for the city attorney position. “According to the city manager, Eric Monday has been working full time since July 1,” City Council member Danny Turner said. “The city manager sent an email that y’all [Martinsville Bulletin] would be seeking information.”
Martinsville Bulletin 

Visitors to Bristol, Tennessee’s website will see the site has undergone a facelift and restructured to be more user-friendly. The city launched its updated website on July 2 and officially rolled it out Monday, according to a news release. Besides a more attractive design, it includes a transparency portal that provides residents with a single access point for city records and documents, a spotlight section that combines the latest city news and a calendar of events.
Bristol Herald Courier


stories of national interest

Faced with a ruling from the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals that could publicly expose crucial data about where prescription opioids were sold, pharmaceutical defendants in the nationwide opioids litigation are counting on a decision last month by the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the information under seal. In a July 3 brief to U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland, pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers argued that the Supreme Court’s June 24 opinion in a Freedom of Information Act case, Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, requires that prescription data they supplied to the U.S. government must remain confidential, despite the 6th Circuit ruling to the contrary. At the very least, the drug companies argued, Judge Polster must keep the data under seal until they and the Drug Enforcement Administration decide whether to ask the 6th Circuit to reconsider its opinion.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have turned state driver’s license databases into a facial-recognition gold mine, scanning through millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent, newly released documents show. Thousands of facial-recognition requests, internal documents and emails over the past five years, obtained through public-records requests by Georgetown Law researchers and provided to The Washington Post, reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.




editorials & columns

quote_3.jpg"And we’re seeing bills introduced by members of both parties. It’s not partisan.”

We’re pleased that the General Assembly endorsed measures during the recent legislative session that strengthen the public’s right to know and promote access to government records and meetings. “What I’ve been seeing is an increase in the number of bills introduced that are aimed at increasing transparency,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “And we’re seeing bills introduced by members of both parties. It’s not partisan.” Indeed it should not be. Open records and accessible information benefit everyone, regardless of political party.
Richmond Times-Dispatch 

There’s a growing pressure on government agencies to modernize IT in order to more effectively fulfill their missions. The first step is the most difficult – to let go of entrenched strategies. When agencies reproduce existing processes with new technologies, they miss the point of modernization. True transformation means realigning the agency workforce to its mission. In other words, digital transformation isn’t about preserving ‘how’ things are currently done. It’s about refocusing on ‘why’ things are done and finding ways to do them better. 
Todd Schroeder, Governing