Transparency News 8/11/17

Friday, August 11, 2017

State and Local Stories

What do a local government contractor, a conservative activist in Sterling, gay rights leaders in Lovettsville, a Purcellville politician and members of a left-leaning political action group have in common? All have been blocked from an elected official’s social media account for challenging their policy positions.  Following a federal court ruling last month that said Chairwoman Phyllis (D-At Large) violated Lansdowne resident Brian Davison’s First Amendment rights by blocking him temporarily from her Facebook page, residents from Loudoun and around the country have come forward with more stories about how they were censored from the social media pages of their elected officials.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

The city of Charlottesville and City Manager Maurice Jones are now facing a federal civil rights lawsuit that includes an allegation that “political pressure” led city officials earlier this week to waffle on whether they would provide security at a controversial rally in Emancipation Park on Saturday. According to the lawsuit filed Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and The Rutherford Institute, Police Chief Al Thomas told Unite the Right rally organizer Jason Kessler on Monday that police would provide protection at the rally.
Daily Progress

Martinsville School Board member Lawrence Mitchell said Thursday that he will resign from the board today, citing “irreconcilable differences” with Chairwoman Joan Montgomery and other board members. In a phone call to the Martinsville Bulletin, Mitchell said there seems to be “a little bit too much politics” in the relationship between the school board and Martinsville City Council, which appoints the board’s five members.
Martinsville Bulletin

National Stories

When it comes to the New York Department of Education, there’s no such thing as a routine Freedom of Information Law request. Diane Tinsley of Community Education Council 5 in Harlem submitted what she thought was a minor FOIL application to the DOE in April 2016. Concerned by a severe shortage of school librarians, the CEC — representing the Harlem Council of Elders advocacy group — simply wanted to know which of the 16 schools in her district staffed them. But instead of getting answers, Tinsley found herself trapped in a bureaucratic farce that has lasted for well over a year. The DOE rejected her request two months after she filed it, arguing that it would require the mass mobilization of its tech department.
New York Post

A Thunder Bay, Ontario, lawyer with expertise in privacy says making a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to find out where someone is fishing is "a case without merit." Jordan Lester, of Cheadles LLP, says pro angler Mike Borger had reason to be upset that someone submitted an FOI request to obtain information about where he had been staying in Algonquin Park this spring. Borger told his story to CBC last week, saying that the FOI request came because of a video he posted showing big brook trout he and his son caught at a secret location in the popular park.
CBC News

Six deputies with the York County, S.C., Sheriff's Department have been disciplined – including two who were fired – after an internal investigation uncovered a string of sexual encounters between deputies while on duty. Documents provided to WBTV by the York County Sheriff’s Office in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show investigators discovered that one female deputy had sex with five different male deputies at various times while on duty. The sexual encounters stretch as far back as 2003, records provided by the sheriff’s office show.
Charlotte Observer

Politico's Philip Shenon says Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK led to a law stating all documents about the Kennedy assassination must be released by October 2017. Three hundred new pages just came out.


The single greatest flaw in Delaware's open government laws is the exemption to the Freedom of Information Act that the General Assembly has given itself. Almost every other state employee, including the governor, is required by law to hand over documents, e-mails and other communications when the public requests them. This is a crucial tool for citizens to understand what their taxpayer dollars are paying for and how public officials are running the government on their behalf. But any email to or from a legislator and their staffers — including those with the governor — is outside the purview of state FOIA law. That means all the deliberations on the state budget, new taxes and new laws can happen outside the public's view.  This is wrong.
The News Journal