Transparency News 8/28/13


Wednesday, August 28, 2013
State and Local Stories


An Onancock resident who received a favorable ruling in a 2012 Freedom of Information Act case against the town has filed another FOIA-related petition in court.  Charles Landis claims in the petition for injunction or mandamus filed Aug. 26 with Accomack County General District Court the town did not provide him with documents related to former Town Manager Tom Robinett’s termination of employment and the subsequent search for an interim town manager. “You need to understand citizens have a right to know how you conduct the public’s business,” he said, adding, “You have not learned from (the) last order and sanction of (the) court. You give no choice but again to seek remedy at court.” According to the court filing, Landis claims the town did not provide him a copy of certain documents he requested under the Freedom of Information Act: a document Jones asked town council members to sign or initial having to do with Robinett’s termination and documents authorizing Jones or any council members to offer employment to a candidate to replace Robinett.
Eastern Shore News

The former president of the Remington Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department in Fauquier County admitted in court Tuesday that he stole more than $40,000 of the organization’s funds, often writing department checks to himself as reimbursement for things he did not buy. Stuart’s scheme, according to his plea agreement, was as simple as it was lucrative. Sometimes he would submit invoices requesting reimbursement for goods he claimed, falsely, to have bought for the department, and sometimes he would simply write checks to himself from the department’s accounts.
Washington Post

The city of Martinsville is ending its practice of requiring city department heads — except in special circumstances — to live in the city to make it easier to fill those positions. In a 3-2 vote, Martinsville City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to an ordinance amendment repealing the requirement. However, in a 4-1 vote, the council adopted a resolution that states that any department heads living outside Martinsville who sell their homes must move to the city if they want to keep their jobs.
Martinsville Bulletin

While Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) may still be smarting from a Board of Supervisors censure in July, he demonstrated his ability to rally support at the Aug. 26 Loudoun County Republican Committee meeting.  In a 68-34 roll call vote of all committee members in attendance, the LCRC voted to urge the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors to return funding to Delgaudio’s office and initiate a board committee to investigate the allegations against Delgaudio, allowing him the opportunity to defend himself against accusations he misused county funds and resources.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Just two years after a historical marker went up commemorating the spot where FBI official Mark Felt secretly met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation, the spot itself is set to come down. The spot was in a parking garage at 1401 Wilson Blvd. in the Rosslyn area of Arlington, which Felt apparently selected as both an inconspicuous site and a halfway point between his own home near Prosperity Avenue in the Fairfax area and Woodward’s apartment in the District. Woodward and his colleague on the Post Metro desk, Carl Bernstein, used information provided by Felt, then the associate director of the FBI, to expose the Nixon administration’s role in obstructing the Watergate investigation. Nixon wound up resigning, you may have heard.
Washington Post

National Stories

As part of recent sequestration cuts, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has closed its Historical Collections Division, which had been tasked with voluntary declassification of important historical records, including documents related to the Bay of Pigs, the Cold War and the Korean War.  The responsibilities of the Historical Records Division will be transferred to the CIA’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office, an office that already has a growing backlog of FOIA requests and appeals.
Sunlight Foundation

REGISTER NOW to save your seat for the 2013 FOIA Summit at the Hill Center in Washington, DC on October 10 (all day) and 11 (half day). This special event will bring together advocates, litigators, academics, journalists, and others who want to help make the federal Freedom of Information Act a more effective tool to get timely access to government information. Over the course of a day and a half, we will not have time to discuss all of the issues with FOIA, but we will have several break-out sessions where participants can delve into a  particular topic. Break-out sessions on day one (October 10) are principally devoted to diagnosing the primary obstacles. During the smaller number of break-out sessions on the second day (October 11), attendees will put together action plans to address specific issues.

Government agents in 74 countries demanded information on about 38,000 Facebook users in the first half of this year, with about half the orders coming from authorities in the United States, the company said Tuesday. The social-networking giant is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its customers. Microsoft and Google have done the same.

Check out the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel web page and you'll find hundreds of legal opinions, dating to 1992. Is that all there is? Not at all. A suit filed Tuesday in Washington federal district court challenges department secrecy when it comes to the public disclosure of OLC opinions. The complaint, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asks a federal trial judge to direct the Justice Department to "make all binding legal opinions issued by OLC available for public inspection and copying."
Blog of LeaglTimes

California officials would be required to give journalists five days' notice before they issue subpoenas for telephone records under legislation that has passed the Assembly. Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance drafted the bill after it was disclosed that the U.S. Department of Justice had retrieved telephone logs of Associated Press journalists.
San Diego Union-Times

The American Civil Liberties Union of California is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to go public on what are currently behind-closed-doors discussions concerning how the state will comply with court orders to reduce prison crowding. Brown has said only that it will cost California hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the state's prison population down to levels ordered by federal judges. His top prison officials have said they plan to expand the system by leasing space from public and private facilities, both in and out of state. Details of the plans are being hashed out away from public view -- even Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said last week that she was in the dark on the matter.
Los Angeles Times

Inside an ancient vault in the heart of the Massachusetts State House, past two massive steel doors with timed locks, sits an ornately decorated safe, the size of a small car. Until recently, no one there knew the combinations to its locks or what, exactly, was hidden inside. Longtime staff members in the treasurer’s office, where the walk-in vault is located, say the safe within has been locked as long as they can remember, at least two decades, the codes to open it lost as employees came and went. But this month, after inquiries from a Globe reporter, state Treasurer Steven Grossman acknowledged that he, too, wondered about the contents of the safe, which probably dates to the 1890s. He brought in two professional safecrackers to open it.
Boston Globe

The Glendale Unified School District (Calif.) has hired a Hermosa Beach company to monitor public social media posts made by its students to find out when teens are in trouble or causing it. Superintendent Richard Sheehan said Geo Listening is analyzing the posts of 13,000 students at eight Glendale middle and high schools.
CBS Los Angeles