Transparency News, 8/6/20


August 6, 2020
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state & local news stories
"The speaker's office said it has 'developed the technology to successfully do the people's work remotely,' including debating bills, allowing for public comment and voting."
There's still time left to register for Friday's FOIA training day, presented by Fairfax County, with Alan Gernhardt giving training on FOIA's records and meetings sections that is required for all state and local FOIA officers. Alan's presentations will also qualify for CLE credit. There will also be presentations from various vendors of FOIA-fulfillmentp products and some remarks from your's truly. There IS a cap on how many can attend, so first-come, first-served!
Details and registration here

The Office of the State Inspector General will provide to state legislative leaders an unredacted copy its recently released report that substantiated several allegations against the Virginia Parole Board, after top Republican lawmakers repeatedly demanded that it be made available to them. During Gov. Ralph Northam’s press briefing Wednesday on COVID-19, Chief of Staff Clark Mercer announced that the parole board and the Inspector General’s Office have been working with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to have the full report released to House and Senate majority and minority leaders. Since receiving a redacted copy of the report last week, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing its interpretation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, has sought a complete and uncensored copy of the report through email requests to the Inspector General.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A special session scheduled for later this month will see House lawmakers gather both online and in person to address the impact of COVID-19 and police reform.  Delegates will gather on Aug. 18 at VCU's Stuart C. Siegel Center to kick off the special session, but might pivot online for portions of the gathering, which could last two weeks or longer, according to the office of House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax. The gathering will involve sufficient social distancing and other safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the speaker's office said. The Siegel Center will be closed to the public while lawmakers conduct business inside. As for the online portion, the speaker's office said it has "developed the technology to successfully do the people's work remotely," including debating bills, allowing for public comment and voting.  The speaker's office could not immediately provide a timeline for when lawmakers would meet online versus in person.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Winchester Republican mayoral candidate Danielle Bostick is taking the city to court over its recent violations of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Bostick's petition for injunction claims City Council improperly entered into executive sessions on June 9, July 14 and July 28, depriving the public of its right to see and hear members vote on whether the sessions were necessary and in accordance with the Code of Virginia. City officials admitted on Friday they had made a mistake by not broadcasting open meetings before and after each of the executive sessions in question and vowed to do better in the future. Bostick also claims that council's failure to read citizens' comments aloud during its business meetings and work sessions deprives people without an internet connection from learning about the concerns of their neighbors.
The Winchester Star

Evidence of divisions caused by the presence of such Confederate symbols in modern-day Culpeper emerged during more than an hour of public comment on the contentious nationwide issue at Tuesday night’s County Board of Supervisors meeting. More than 50 residents attended the public hearing held in the auditorium at Eastern View High School, and nearly two dozen weighed in on the flag and monument issues, including comments submitted by phone and email. Only one member of the seven-member elected board, Chairman Gary Deal, made public remarks after hearing the feedback from constituents.
Culpeper Star-Exponent
editorials & columns
"The administration is inexplicably giving the agency whose alleged misconduct was extraordinary say over what a supposedly independent watchdog is allowed to release to the people."
The Office of State Inspector General was established to be independent from the governor’s oversight even though it is an agency within the Office of the Governor. In this circumstance, the administration is inexplicably giving the agency whose alleged misconduct was investigated, the Parole Board, an extraordinary say over what a supposedly independent watchdog is allowed to release to the people of Virginia. In so doing, the governor’s office owns this abnegation of accountability, just as it does in the Health Department’s refusal to disclose information about poultry plants that have been COVID-19 hotspots. Perhaps a little transparency about concerns raised about Martin’s trial or his purported role in averting prison uprisings would have bought the board more public support than a sneering, dismissive response when bereaved survivors, law-enforcement and taxpayers dared demand answers. But that’s why we elect governors and put them in charge of appointed boards and bureaucrats, hoping that perhaps they’ll promptly and decisively admonish, correct or even dismiss them.
Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury