Transparency News 8/27/13


Tuesday, August 27, 2013
State and Local Stories


Soda cans crack open with a hiss. Chocolate wrappers crinkle under foraging fingers. Knives and forks saw through fried chicken, pork chops and sirloin. Go to enough meetings, and these become the sounds of city governance. Sure, there’s the clank of the gavel, the speeches, the arguments, the votes. But there’s also chewing, chomping, occasional slurps. It’s messy work, overseeing a city and school division. The hours are long; the meetings, tedious. So, in many ways, it makes sense that there would be meals to fuel the leaders who watch the city’s sausage being made. Although they don’t always dine in public, documents brought some of the meals to light.

The Virginia Tech committee in charge of finding a pool of applicants for outgoing university President Charles Steger’s job has announced it will hold a public meeting Thursday. The meeting is set for 8:30 a.m. in the Cascades Room at the Inn at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. No agenda for the meeting has been published. Minnis Ridenour, administrative liaison to the committee, could not immediately be reached to answer questions Monday. The committee is also holding meetings with faculty this week, according to the presidential search Web page. Meetings with graduate and undergraduate students are scheduled for September.
Roanoke Times

The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors must pay $53,229 to Barbara Hudson’s attorneys for their fees and expenses from the court fight over sectarian Christian prayer during board meetings, a federal judge ordered Monday. U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski has adopted a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation — filed Aug. 2 — that Hudson’s motion for attorneys’ fees and expenses be granted. Urbanski’s decision comes after the board filed objections to the report and recommendation Aug. 14. Board of Supervisors Chairman Marshall Ecker said if it were up to him, he would contest the judge’s decision. “It looks like there may be a battle coming forth,” Ecker said Monday. Ecker said board members would discuss the matter in a closed session with their attorney, State Sen. Bill Stanley.
Register & Bee

Supporters of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell launched a Web site with a testimonial from Virginia’s longest-serving legislator on Monday in a bid to raise money for the governor’s mounting legal bills. Retiring Del. Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford) e-mailed a letter that was tantamount to a political fundraising pitch on behalf of the term-limited Republican’s legal defense fund. The e-mail directed recipients to a newly created Web site for the “Restoration Fund.”
Washington Post

The ongoing battle between Loudoun Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio and the county Board of Supervisors appears likely to continue, as Delgaudio’s attorney said last week that Delgaudio plans to appeal the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against his fellow supervisors. The lawsuit was filed shortly before the county board took action in response to a June 24 report from a special grand jury that concluded a lengthy criminal investigation of Delgaudio (R-Sterling). The investigation stemmed from allegations made by one of the supervisor’s former aides, who told The Washington Post last year that Delgaudio used county resources and staff members to benefit his political campaign.
Washington Post

National Stories

The Justice Department is being forced to hand over an index of every document amassed in its criminal investigation of former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). The federal court decision will grant the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington watchdog group a broad list of what documents the DOJ possesses and the reasons why Justice is arguing to withhold them from the public.
The Hill

Google's name might be household fare for the rest of us, but in at least one national security court case, it is still subject to redaction -- as long as the government remembers to obfuscate all instances of the company's name. The Wall Street Journal reported that a Department of Justice court filing on August 23 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York didn't redact Google's name in one instance from the document, finally confirming what many had suspected: that Google was the unnamed company fighting the government's use of National Security Letters to gain access to company-owned data.

Rick Scott is the first Florida governor to put his emails online, but his much-touted Project Sunburst remains a shining example of a promise unfulfilled. Scott has not kept a commitment he made more than a year ago to broaden the email transparency system beyond his inner circle of 11 senior staff members to include the many agencies under his command. In fact, the governor’s office still struggles to meet Scott’s own timetable for making messages available. Not all emails are online within seven days, as Scott said they would be 15 months ago. In addition, Scott’s stated goal of making many emails available within 24 hours has met with uneven results, giving Sunburst a perpetually cloudy image.
Miami Herald

The U.S. government has admitted that it does not know how much classified information whistle-blower Edward Snowden possesses, as the leakers carefully covered his digital tracks. As such, the authorities have little sense of how many more indicting NSA revelations are yet to come from leaked documents. As the AP noted: The government’s forensic investigation is wrestling with Snowden’s apparent ability to defeat safeguards established to monitor and deter people looking at information without proper permission, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the sensitive developments publicly.


Virginian-Pilot: A majority of Norfolk State University's governing board voted late last week to fire President Tony Atwater, ending his two-year tenure without citing a cause. In a statement emailed by a university spokeswoman, Rector Thomas Chewning explained the action by noting only that Norfolk State "faces several operational and academic challenges." That's true. But the lack of transparency does little good for Norfolk State as it tries to fix long-standing systemic problems. It also sends the wrong message to highly qualified executives who might otherwise consider taking the helm at Norfolk State and steering the institution toward more stable ground.

Roanoke Times: It’s too soon to tell who will win Virginia’s closely watched race for governor. But, thanks to the Virginia Public Access Project (, it’s easier than ever to tell where individuals and businesses in your community are placing their bets. VPAP, the nonpartisan, nonprofit tracker of money in politics, has distilled campaign finance data from all three statewide races into color-coded maps to illustrate how the candidates are doing raising money in each region and each ZIP code of the state.

News & Advance: The institution of the office of the governor is far more important than one person. Its moral and political powers are great; American icons Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson are numbered among the occupants of the job. We have said before, and we say again, Gov. McDonnell has lost all moral authority to govern. The longer he remains in his post, the more damage he does to the institution of the governor’s office and to the commonwealth. McDonnell’s tenure and his legacy could have been so different.

Jerome Halligan, Huffington Post (SATIRE!): The Obama administration has classified the 1967 Freedom of Information Act, according to intelligence officials. The landmark piece of legislation, often referred to as FOIA, was signed by President Lyndon Johnson and guaranteed access to previously unreleased information and documents controlled by various branches of the U.S. government. It had a wide-ranging impact on the ability of advocacy groups, journalists and the general public to obtain information which they would otherwise likely have been unable to obtain.