Transparency News 9/10/13


Tuesday, September 10, 2013
State and Local Stories


A Charlottesville television station argued to the Virginia Supreme Court on Monday that a judge erred by barring a camera in the courtroom for the sentencing of George Huguely V. After hearing objections from both the prosecution and Huguely’s lawyers, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire ruled against allowing still and video cameras in the courtroom for the sentencing when no jury would be present. Gregory S. Duncan, a lawyer representing Charlottesville’s NBC29, told the high court justices Monday morning that Virginia law allows a judge to bar cameras for “good cause shown.” Duncan argued that Hogshire relied on his own speculative concerns and those of the lawyers for the state and Huguely.

As the Virginia Information Technologies Agency prepares for the June 2019 end of its huge computer contract with Northrop Grumman, some state lawmakers are suggesting a review of the state agency’s management.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown told members of the board of supervisors on Monday night thatlicense plate readers have proven a useful tool in helping his deputies track down criminals. But members of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors were not completely sold, raising concerns with the vehicle surveillance technology encompassing many residents not involved in crime.
Roanoke Times

Every family has some dark secrets, but not like this: A woman in Virginia is now revealing that her father was the Kommandant of Auschwitz. Brigette Höss (which is her maiden name; she is keeping her married name secret out of fear for her own safety) had kept the story from even her grandkids. But now 80 and recently diagnosed with cancer, she agreed to an interview after writer Thomas Harding found her while researching a book about the hunt for and capture of (by Harding's own great-uncle, no less) her father, Rudolf Höss.
USA Today

National Stories

Proceedings in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are typically sealed. Google Inc. wants to change that. Google announced today that the company and others, including Facebook, were filing renewed petitions in the secretive Washington-based court to expand the ability to share data about demands for consumer information. Google’s court filing asked the surveillance court to hold oral argument at a public hearing.
Blog of LegalTimes

Indiana's education leaders are learning from the mistakes of former School Superintendent Tony Bennett, starting with their promise to spend more time crafting Indiana's new school grading formula and doing so in the open. Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said drafting a new formula will have to be done transparently in order to earn the public's trust. The two commissioned a review of Indiana's grading formula a few days after The Associated Press published emails showing Bennett changed the formula to bump the grade of a prominent Republican donor's charter school from a "C'' to an "A."

Jonathan Silver, who led the Energy Department's Loan Program Office that gave taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to green energy companies that ultimately went bankrupt, will join other current and former government officials in testifying Tuesday about using private email accounts to avoid congressional oversight. Silver will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about his use of a private email account to discuss loan applications with green energy investors who stood to profit from receiving taxpayer subsidies, according to hearing documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Washington Examiner

Johns Hopkins University was alerted earlier Monday that one of its professors wrote a blog post allegedly linking to classified National Security Agency documents. Swiftly, the university asked this professor to take down his post. However, hours later, when the school realized he was just linking to news articles -- he was allowed to reinstate the blog post. The whole debacle began after major news stories spread across the Web last Thursday detailing claims that the NSA has been setting up a clandestine program to break digital encryptions for everything from users' smartphones to everyday e-mails to medical records.

A Maryland delegate has asked the state attorney general's office whether it was legal for state policeto allow up to 200 state employees from five agencies to view confidential information about prospective gun buyers as officials process a massive backlog of gun applications. Kevin Kelly, Allegany Democrat, sent a letter to Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler seeking details on the three-day “All Hands on Deck” effort in which state employees entered personal information from some of the 39,000 pending purchase applications into an electronic database for the police licensing division.
Washington Times


Megan Rhyne, VCOG Blog: An item out of Sauk Village, Ill., caught my eye this morning. In it, the village clerk complains to that the village has been inundated with FOIA requests -- more than 100 this year and 18 on Aug. 27 -- and there’s no “rhyme or reason” to this.  The village president has a solution: publish a web page listing the names of all FOIA requesters, as well as the cost and time spent by attorneys and staff on each request. Why in the world would they not have enough time to fill the FOIA requests but have enough time to create this kind of page? Is that what they “need to be doing” that they haven’t been able to?

Daily Press: Early this year, Ken Cuccinelli raised a few eyebrows when he chose to remain Virginia's attorney general while he campaigned as the Republican nominee for governor. Though his decision bucked a long-standing political tradition in the commonwealth, it was not entirely surprising. Mr. Cuccinelli has a very public record of doing things his own way, even when he is swimming against the predominant current. But that choice raised several troublesome issues, some of which can be explained away but one of which – the fact that the attorney general's office serves as counsel to the Board of Elections - demands immediate action.