Transparency News 8/8/18



August 8, 2018


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state & local news stories


The review relied on data collected by, which aggregates online state court records.

Redactions in the new Charlottesville interim city manager's contract are causing some concerns. Members of Charlottesville City Council voted 3-0 last week to offer then-Assistant City Manager Mike Murphy the interim job. Under his contract, released over the weekend, Murphy will remain at his current salary of more than $152,000. However, part of his benefits section is redacted.
After a tense conversation about Interim City Manager Mike Murphy’s employment agreement Monday night, he waived his right to a personnel records exemption. On Tuesday afternoon, Murphy agreed to release the majority of a previously redacted portion of his interim city manager contract related to benefits “in the interest of the community and the city being able to move forward,” according to a signed statement.
The Daily Progress

The company that owns The Roanoke Times filed a lawsuit Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court against a former reporter over the rights to a Twitter account. The lawsuit, filed in Roanoke by BH Media Group, will determine whether Virginia Tech football reporter Andy Bitter owns the Twitter account with the handle @AndyBitterVT and its associated followers. Bitter left The Roanoke Times earlier this year for a similar position at The Athletic, a startup website. (The Roanoke Times is owned by BH Media Group, as is the Richmond Times-Dispatch.) The unique set of circumstances was brought about in part by Bitter leaving to do essentially the same job for a different outlet. The lawsuit contends that the approximately 27,100 Twitter followers he had are the property of BH Media, and Bitter using the account to advertise subscriptions to The Athletic is illegal. The company claims damages in excess of $5,000, a legal threshold that would allow for an immediate injunction.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia medical providers filed more than 400,000 lawsuits over the past five years, netting more than $587 million in legal judgments against their patients, an analysis of state court records by the Virginia Mercury has found. The review relied on data collected by, which aggregates online state court records. Of those, no medical provider filed more lawsuits or won more judgments than MCV Physicians, the VCU doctors group that sued Washington. The practice filed 43,330 suits between 2013 and 2017, winning more than $62 million in judgments.
Virginia Mercury


stories of national interest

On a day in which the nation was on the verge of seeing where tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money is spent in the federal food stamp program, an industry group that represents food retailers made a last-minute plea to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop the information from being made public. The request from the Food Marketing Institute to Justice Neil Gorsuch came on the same day that the 8th Circuit Court of appeals denied FMI’s request to stop the release of data that would show how much money taxpayers pay to each grocer and gas station that participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The 8th Circuit had previously ruled that the sales figures were public information in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Argus Leader, and FMI had asked for a delay in their release while it appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Argus Leader

WASHINGTON—Almost from the outset of a blockbuster six-week trial this spring, the Justice Department appeared to struggle to convince U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that he should block AT&T Inc.’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Inc. Newly unsealed transcripts—from private bench conferences during the trial between Judge Leon and lawyers for both sides—show the government was having even more difficulty with the judge than it appeared.
The Wall Street Journal





editorials & columns


"The closed-door approach to city public land deals doesn’t exactly have a great track record in Richmond."

We all share a passion for this city (Richmond) and we want it to succeed for everyone’s benefit. In fact, our organization, the Partnership for Smarter Growth, fully supports the revitalization of the 10-block area north of Broad, relative to the old Coliseum, into a walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood, with restored street connections. We also support tax increment financing (TIF) districts in principle. If we want to make smart choices, the best way is through an inclusive and transparent public process. Top business leaders and city staff don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. In fact, the closed-door approach to city public land deals — with a rushed public process after the deal is cooked — doesn’t exactly have a great track record in Richmond.
Stewart Schwartz, Richmond Times-Dispatch

SARAH WILSON, a 19-year-old from Chesapeake, died while in police custody during a traffic stop on July 25. This much is known. Beyond that, however, very little seems to add up about the incident involving Wilson; her boyfriend, Holden Medlin; and officers of the Chesapeake Police Department. In this case the cameras the officers were wearing were apparently knocked offline during the struggle to subdue Medlin, meaning there is no definitive record of what transpired. Even if such footage existed, there is no guarantee the public would see it, thanks again to Virginia’s inadequate FOIA, which puts such decisions in the hands of authorities. But this is also an opportunity for the Chesapeake police department to affirm the community’s trust by being forthcoming with the details and transparent in the findings of its investigation. Going beyond what is obligated by the commonwealth’s FOIA and embracing openness is a sure way to inspire confidence in the professional conduct of law enforcement. That’s especially important in this case because what the public now knows simply doesn’t add up — and it’s up to law enforcement to see that it does.
The Virginian-Pilot