Transparency News 9/11/18



September 11, 2018


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state & local news stories


The Richmond City Council on Monday voted to increase a self-imposed threshold that triggers a vote by the full body on an individual member’s use of public money. The council unanimously voted to increase from $1,000 to $5,000 the threshold at which a member must seek approval from the body for transactions using council district funds. Councilwoman Reva Trammell proposed the changes. She said she did not believe the higher threshold would veil how members choose to spend the money. Andreas Addison, the 1st District representative, said the spending, no matter the amount, will continue to appear on the city’s online check registry.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Bristol yesterday filed its initial response to a lawsuit by Councilman Doug Fleenor, asking that a document detailing allegations against him be made part of the court record. Fleenor filed his complaint last week, claiming the City Council doesn't have the authority to oust an elected member of that board. The city served Fleenor a notice of intent document Aug. 28 announcing its intentions to vote him off the council for malfeasance or neglect of duty.
Bristol Herald Courier

Virginia has put more than $100 million on its credit card to extract the state’s information technology system from an unhappy, multibillion-dollar marriage with Northrop Grumman, with another bill potentially due from litigation pending in a Richmond court. Most of the costs — about $76 million — are fees the state is obligated to pay Northrop Grumman to end the 13-year, $2.4 billion contract more than 10 months early. The state could be obligated to pay an additional $29 million pending the outcome of litigation between the Virginia Information Technologies Agency and Northrop Grumman in Richmond Circuit Court. Now, state policymakers have concerns about the suitors taking the Fairfax-based company’s place. Legislators were appalled to hear Monday that a new provider of email services to more than 55,000 state employees had a backlog of 3,000 unfilled help requests within a few months of taking over the contract and was unable to ensure round-the-clock support to state agencies.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration has paid outside consultants and lawyers close to $500,000 since January to vet the $1.4 billion proposal centering on a new downtown arena. The Stoney administration has spent about $481,000 scrutinizing the lone pitch it received to replace the Richmond Coliseum and redevelop a 10-block swath of prime real estate north of Broad Street, according to monthly invoices through August that the Richmond Times-Dispatch obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Members of the Richmond City Council said Monday that the administration had not told them of the climbing costs associated with what Stoney has called his “unprecedented due diligence” on the plans.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Charlottesville City Council met in closed session Monday to discuss an employee assignment and how to pick a search firm to find a permanent city manager. Councilors approved a motion to discuss the assignment of a specific employee in the office of the city council and department of the clerk of council, as well as the terms and scope of a contract for human resources consulting firms. A discussion in an open session would adversely affect the bargaining position or the negotiating strategy of the council, they said.
The Daily Progress


national stories of interest

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly lost 8 percent of its staff in the first 18 months of President Trump's administration due to high numbers of departing staffers and a low number of new hires. The Washington Post reported Saturday that nearly 1,600 workers left the EPA during that time, while fewer than 400 were hired. The agency's employment has shrunk to its lowest levels since the Reagan administration, the Post noted. According to data retrieved by the Post under a Freedom of Information Act request, the EPA has lost as many as 260 scientists, 106 engineers and 185 “environmental protection specialists," numbers which include both longtime veterans of the department and less experienced employees.
The Hill




editorials & columns


Lousy customer service by government inexorably creates and grows contempt, not merely for specific government agencies, such as the police, but for government in general. Particularly on the right, opportunistic politicians exploit the resentments of people who feel mistreated and neglected by a government that supposedly serves them. 
Ted Rall, The News & Advance