Transparency News 8/16/19



August 16, 2019


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state & local news stories


Access News will be on vacation next week, but I'll still be posting stories to our Twitter and Facebook feeds. The newsletter will return Aug. 26.

Members of the Norfolk School Board are facing criticism over meeting without public notice. It’s an issue that every Planning Commission and water-control board in Virginia has to deal with. 
Virginia Public Radio

In a three-to-one vote the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors on Monday rejected Jackson Supervisor Ron Frazier’s demand that the county pay his substantial legal bills in connection with a 2016 lawsuit. The suit was brought by county farmer Marian Bragg, who charges that the Board of Supervisors violated Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by going into closed sessions on several occasions — without public notice — to discuss the hiring of a county attorney in 2016.  The itemized bills go on for several pages of charges for services from February through May. However, the descriptions of the services rendered for all of the charges are blacked out, to “protect attorney-client privilege,” explained Theodora Stringham, one of Frazier’s attorneys.
Rappahannock News


stories of national interest

An Ann Arbor City Council member is asking Mayor Christopher Taylor to turn over his emails, accusing him of violating council rules by using a private email account for city business. “I want to confirm it. I want to see who you’re talking to,” Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, told the mayor publicly last week. Hayner aired the allegations as council debated a resolution to waive $217 in fees for a Freedom of Information Act request Hayner recently filed. After some debate over whether Hayner should have to pay the city for the emails, council postponed the matter until Sept. 16.

In Monday's Ninth Circuit decision in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Dep't of Agriculture, the ALDF had asked that a Freedom of Information Act request be expedited; the statute calls for such expedited processing when "failure to obtain requested records on an expedited basis … could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual." The request, though, had to do with the health of Tony the Tiger (no, not the Frosted Flakes one). And the Ninth Circuit held against the ALDF, because animals aren't "individuals."
The Volokh Conspiracy

A federal judge ruled against the FBI’s efforts to keep some redacted documents related to former FBI Director James Comey’s memos hidden from the public. The ruling comes after the FBI asked Judge James Boasberg to reconsider a district court ruling earlier this year that CNN and other media organizations and watchdog groups were entitled to information related both to Comey's memos and to how those memos were used in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation, which concluded earlier this year. But the FBI battled against disclosure.
Washington Examiner

The world anxiously awaited the end of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and a new eye-popping metric shows just how much that anticipation turned into actual downloads. According to data obtained by POLITICO under the Freedom of Information Act, the special counsel’s final report was downloaded nearly 800 million times from DOJ’s website between its public release in mid-April and early July.

Since the city of New Orleans opened its Real-Time Crime Monitoring Center in late 2017 — putting dozens, and eventually hundreds, of surveillance cameras online across the city monitoring street corners 24 hours a day — city officials have repeatedly dismissed civil rights advocates’ concerns about privacy and law enforcement abuse. Still, the city — apparently aware that the footage the cameras gathered did indeed have the potential for misuse, public streets notwithstanding — adopted a stringent policy on how the cameras could be deployed and how the sensitive data they collect could be disseminated. Most of it can’t be, according to the policy. But an attorney and an open-government expert who spoke to The Lens say the policy doesn’t appear to comply with state sunshine laws. The City Attorney’s Office has denied several recent footage requests from The Lens and from engineer Matt McBride, who closely monitors the city’s drainage system.
The Lens