Transparency News 9/10/18



September 10, 2018


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state & local news stories


"I’ve also got to tell you that the other side [Stafford County School Board] insisted on a confidentiality provision, so I can’t tell you anything other than the fact that the case was settled, and we’re quite pleased with the result.”

Charlottesville city councilors were in a hurry to approve the interim city manager's contract last month after parting ways with former manager Maurice Jones. The city drafted a contract for Mike Murphy, an assistant city manager, to take the top job on an interim basis. A section on his benefits in the contract was redacted before it was released to the public. After Mayor Nikuyah Walker asked why, Murphy signed a statement saying he would waive his "protections' in the public interest and release the full contract. The statement painted the decision as a goodwill gesture by Murphy and noted that the redacted information - details about retirement and job benefits - could be excluded from public view because of an exception in Virginia's Freedom of Information Act. But Virginia law explicitly spells out that employment contracts are public records. The city attorney's attempt to redact portions of the contract was a legal interpretation one of the state's foremost experts on FOIA said she has not seen before.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A registered sex offender recently settled his lawsuit over a no-trespassing notice that effectively prohibited him from attending Stafford County School Board meetings. But the public will not be privy to the details of that settlement agreement between plaintiff Melvin Allen and the Stafford School Board. “I’m happy to tell you that that matter has been very satisfactorily settled,” said attorney Victor Glasberg, who represents Allen. “I’ve also got to tell you that the other side insisted on a confidentiality provision, so I can’t tell you anything other than the fact that the case was settled, and we’re quite pleased with the result.” It’s unclear whether the settlement agreement allows Allen to attend School Board meetings. The School Board will hold its first meeting of September on Tuesday. A Stafford schools spokeswoman declined to comment on the settlement.
The Free Lance-Star

One year ago last Friday, then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe ascended the steps in front of the historic Chesterfield courthouse and announced that the county’s economic development authority intended to acquire a 1,675-acre parcel in south Chester, rezone and develop it as an industrial megasite, and use it to attract a large-scale manufacturer. Their initial excitement faded as a determined, organized Chester citizens group rallied thousands of their neighbors to resist what they saw as inappropriate encroachment of heavy industrial development into a densely populated residential area. Board member John Cogbill, a retired land-use attorney, lamented “the way this process rolled out,” then called on the Board of Supervisors to purchase the property and take time to build consensus behind a plan to develop it. “I believe there needs to be more dialogue. We need to talk more to people about what we’re trying to do. I think that helps the process and helps people understand,” he said. Over the past four months, county leaders have avoided any public mention of the megasite, seemingly reluctant to discuss an issue that has generated lingering hard feelings among many residents of southern Chesterfield. But Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dorothy Jaeckle, who lives in Chester and has represented the area on the board since 2008, acknowledged in a telephone interview last Friday morning that the county is engaged in ongoing discussions about the future of the 1,675-acre site. “I can’t tell you what that will be,” she said.
Chesterfield Observer

Norfolk residents do more jury duty than anyone else in Hampton Roads, according to a Virginian-Pilot analysis of court data from the region’s seven cities. They spend more days in the courthouse waiting and serving on trials. That's at least twice as much any other city and, in the most extreme case, 3½ times as much. And more Norfolk jurors are serving on multiple trials than before, Deputy Clerk Tom Larson said.
The Virginian-Pilot

Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe is under investigation for a “criminal matter,” according to Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams. No charges have been filed, and Abrams declined to reveal details of the investigation. Tharpe said over the phone that he was unaware of any investigation and he has “no clue” what it may concern. He said police have not interviewed him or talked to him about the investigation and no one has threatened to file a complaint against him. “An investigation made public puts the wrong idea in people’s minds. I don’t want to give people the wrong conclusion that I would be involved in criminal activity,” he said. Abrams said over the phone that “it’s an investigation of a criminal matter” and declined to comment further. He added that he does not know how long the matter will be under investigation before a decision is made whether or not to file charges. If charges are filed, he said he would be able to provide “some basic facts” before the matter went to court.
The Northern Virginia Daily




editorials & columns


Two views of the documents released during the Kavanaugh confirmation process.
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The U.S. Capitol Building was abuzz in the past week as Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh moved through the confirmation process to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court.  What disturbs us, though, is that senators — and the public — did not have full access to the body of his work during this process. Senators have viewed nearly 200,000 pages concerning the judge’s career, although nearly all of them have not been (and will not be) made publicly available. The Trump administration withheld another 100,000 pages from Congress and the public, citing presidential privilege. Traditionally, the National Archives would review Judge Kavanaugh's papers from his time in the federal courts and his tenure with President Bush. It’s a process that would have taken until the end of September. Instead, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans controlling the confirmation process appointed Bush lawyer Bill Burck, a veteran Republican attorney who also has represented Trump administration, to parse out the papers and decide which ones the panel can see, which of those can be made public and which will be withheld altogether.
Daily Press

Democrat senators who made a mockery of fairness in disrupting a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh insist they are being denied information they need to decide whether he is qualified. Not really. Senators have been given many more documents regarding Kavanaugh than were provided for any other high court nominee. How many? At least 482,000 pages of them, according to published reports. Another million or so pages are coming from the National Archives. Some documents — about 100,000 pages — are being withheld by the White House. They involve Kavanaugh’s tenure there as a lawyer during former President George W. Bush’s administration. It is not at all unusual for presidents to withhold information about what goes on in the White House. It happens with virtually every chief executive, for the very good reason that disclosing some of what happens there would not be in the national interest.
The Winchester Star

The new Leadership Albemarle program will help teach Albemarle High School students about taking their passions for social change and navigating the avenues of governmental power structures and processes to make change happen.
The Daily Progress