Transparency News 8/3/18



August 3, 2018


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state & local news stories


"PWCS has to first notify Amazon of 'any Public Records Act requests,' and also allow Amazon 'the right to request exemption or redaction.'"

Amazon’s been the subject of a lot of headlines lately. But while the company’s growing power in the consumer market has drawn scrutiny, Amazon’s move to capture another large stream of spending — the public sector’s — has gone largely unnoticed. The most brazen change Amazon made to Prince William County Schools’ terms involves a section that covers the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The original terms note that, under the law, all of the documents and proceedings related to the contract “shall be open to the inspection of any citizen, or any interested person, firm or corporation.” In Amazon’s re-write, Amazon included a provision that says that, when disclosing information about the contract, PWCS has to first notify Amazon of “any Public Records Act requests,” and also allow Amazon “the right to request exemption or redaction based on assertions of confidentiality or proprietary information to the extent permitted by applicable law.” PWCS accepted the changes to this section of its terms and conditions as written by Amazon.
Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Loudoun County government on Thursday rolled out a new online public records request system that county officials say will make requesting records easier for the public.  The Freedom of Information Act Management System, a GovQA, product can be accessed through The new system allows requesters to submit and track inquiries, and county staff can communicate with the request, track applicable fees and deliver the records. “The system is also more efficient because it standardizes and streamlines the process through an online system that is designed to manage public records requests from start to finish,” says a county statement. st by email, U.S. mail, in person or by phone or fax.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Unable to serve on two citizen boards, newly appointed Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services board member Ron Merricks chose to remain on the Board of Zoning Appeals. In an email to Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors chairman Bob Warren last Friday, Merricks said his statement came after a conversation with county attorney Vaden Hunt stating, "It was best I do not to serve on the BZA [Board of Zoning Appeals] and the DSS [Department of Social Services] board."
Register & Bee


stories of national interest

The annual number of lawsuits filed by news organizations and reporters to obtain federal government records was up sharplyduring the first year and a half of the Trump Administration. On an annual basis, news media Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings rose above 100 for the first time. See Figure 1. This is a dramatic increase compared with levels during the presidency of George W. Bush and the first term of President Obama when the annual number of media FOIA suits usually fluctuated year-by-year between 10 and 20 filings. As the FOIA Project previously reported, suits brought by individual reporters – in contrast to news organizations – initially fueled much of this growth.
The FOIA Project



"Suits brought by individual reporters – in contrast to news organizations – initially fueled much of this growth."


editorials & columns


"I don’t want anybody to think I’m making up the complaint, so I pulled a few examples at random."

The state’s Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council met Tuesday making no mention of  my column published in July 21’s Richmond Times-Dispatchpressing for specific bill numbers, budget item numbers and other details on the state’s lobbyist disclosure forms.  I had been told in advance the issue wouldn’t be added to the agenda. In fact the council’s meeting lasted less than 30 minutes, had no business items, and the only vote was on previous meeting minutes.  Those minutes reveal that the June meeting’s big decision was to approve a staff suggestion to add student loan balances among debts disclosed by public officials. I don’t want anybody to think I’m making up the complaint that the forms disclose nothing at all, despite a direction to be as specific as possible, so I pulled a few examples at random.
Steve Haner, Bacons Rebellion