Transparency News 8/14/18



August 14, 2018


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state & local news stories


A hot August night turned even hotter Thursday inside the Hopewell Municipal Building, as City Council ended a special called meeting over the city attorney position with what can best be described as an angry adjournment. The closed session was called to discuss candidates to succeed Stefan M. Calos as Hopewell’s top legal adviser. In adherence with state Freedom of Information Act laws, council convened in an open meeting and properly voted to enter closed session to discuss the position. However, the door was barely closed before the shouting began, and the heated exchanges could be heard through most of the hallway. Eventually, council reconvened into open session and adjourned. Under FOIA law, council had to reconvene into open session and certify that the closed session dealt only with the topic previously announced. Since that did not happen, council came out and acknowledged that the closed session did not comply with FOIA.
The Progress-Index

Crisis plans that detail the medical issues of dozens of Norfolk students and teachers have been posted online for the past year for anyone to access. Floor maps of three schools also were posted last week. By making the plans public, the district likely violated federal student privacy laws and jeopardized the safety of students and staff, experts in privacy law and school safety said. On Monday morning, the school district removed some of the plans from its website, more than 12 hours after being alerted to the documents by The Virginian-Pilot. Officials removed the remaining plans, from the 2017-18 school year, on Monday afternoon – this time more than five hours after receiving notice from The Pilot.
The Virginian-Pilot


stories of national interest

The public has no right under state law to review police dashcam videos to determine if a police officer acted properly during a high-speed chase or if the officer was justified in using non-lethal force to subdue a suspect, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday. The court ruled 4-3 that the videos from police vehicles, commonly called dashcams, are related to criminal investigations and they're not required by state law to be made. That means the government doesn't have to turn them over under the state's open public records law.  “Most of the videos in that category that would either confirm that the officers acted appropriately or dispute that they acted appropriately are going to be shielded from public view," said open records advocate John Paff, who filed the lawsuit against the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, which the Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
Asbury Park Press

UNC-Chapel Hill has spent $21 million on investigations, public relations and legal bills connected to the six-year academic scandal at the school. The university’s total bill came from a Freedom of Information Act request from The News & Observer of Raleigh. The school spent $3.5 million on a number of lawyers to defend it against the NCAA’s investigation into irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department. The school got the result it wanted as an infractions committee panel ruled there were no violations because the school argued the courses were legitimate and available to non-athletes, too. University officials say the $21 million did not come from tuition or taxpayer money appropriated by lawmakers.

Failures of cooling equipment have dogged the Washington DC VA Medical Center in recent months, angering patients, triggering flooding, forcing staff to throw away thousands of flu vaccines and contributing to safety violations in the medical center’s blood bank. The malfunctions were revealed in a series of records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the News4 I-Team and confirmed by agency officials. The malfunctions include breakdowns of air conditioning systems, refrigerators and cooling pipes. The incidents disrupted patients and operations and contribute to a growing backlog of repair needs at the medical center and VA facilities nationwide.
NBC Washington

In August 1998, as Brett M. Kavanaugh put his finishing touches on a report calling for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, he made light about the graphic language the report would use to describe Clinton’s sexual activity, according to documents released Friday by the National Archives in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. Kavanaugh, now a nominee for the Supreme Court, was intent on delivering a document that would make a strong case against Clinton. But he was uneasy about the explicit language and details that his boss, independent counsel Kenneth Starr, intended to include in the report, according to documents and interviews. “IS IT TOO GRAPHIC?” Kavanaugh asked in an Aug. 31, 1998, memo to other lawyers in the Office of Independent Counsel, run by Starr. “SHOULD IT BE MORE GRAPHIC (kidding)?”
The Washington Post

West Virginia lawmakers, seeking to remove every justice on the state's four-member Supreme Court amid what they called an "over-the-top" spending scandal, impeached three justices on Monday, including Chief Justice Margaret Workman. One article of impeachment said Workman and Justice Robin Davis signed documents in their roles as chief justices allowing for senior status judges to be paid higher than allowed wages. Lawmakers say the overpayments violated state law and stopped when they were challenged by the Internal Revenue Service. Earlier Monday, the Republican-led House of Delegates voted 64-33 to send an impeachment article against Davis to the state Senate for trial. The vote came shortly after lawmakers also impeached indicted Justice Allen Loughry by a vote of 64-33. Loughry's impeachment vote, which came after approximately two hours of debate, took only seconds, NPR reported. 
Fox News



"The court ruled 4-3 that the videos from police vehicle are related to criminal investigations and they're not required by state law to be made."