Transparency News, 9/15/20


 September 15, 2020


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King William Commissioner of the Revenue Sally Pearson refused, on several occasions, to let auditors in her office Sept. 2, according to email correspondence between high-level county officials. Pearson’s refusal to participate in the audit comes nearly six weeks after she declined to take part in the county’s reassessment process, one of the essential functions of her office. The emails were obtained by the Tidewater Review through a Freedom of Information Act request. County Administrator Bobbie Tassinari informed Pearson and her employees via email of the audit in mid-June and sent out a reminder in mid-July. Pearson first said she would not participate in the audit on Aug. 31, according to an email Pearson sent to Jorenlien.
Tidewater Review

Several of Virginia’s publicly funded economic development incentive programs have limited benefit and either need to be overhauled or eliminated, according to a new report published Monday by the state’s legislative watchdog agency. Staff of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission presented lawmakers with the findings of an investigation into the effectiveness of 10 incentives intended to either promote business growth through infrastructure development or encourage business activity in distressed regions. State spending on the incentives totals $690 million over the study period, fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2018.
Associated Press

The Virginia Small Business Financing Authority, the state agency responsible for administering a new $71 million grant program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, is not doing its job in helping small firms get loans, according to a new report by the General Assembly’s watchdog agency. The report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission on Monday found that the authority has left unspent from 76% to 92% of the money it has had available the past three years for loans and grants to small businesses in Virginia. The report also found that the authority “is not meeting most criteria to be an effective lending organization,” including lack of written policies or tools for assessing lending risks, tracking the use of loan and grant funds, and monitoring the health of outstanding loans.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


stories of national interest
"The issue with Marsy’s Law comes down to the interpretation of privacy."
When overwhelmingly passed by Wisconsin voters in April, Marsy’s Law was billed as a major step forward for crime victims’ rights, but public records advocates are raising concerns that an over-interpretation of the constitutional amendment by some law enforcement agencies could curtail access to public information. Last week, the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office announced it would no longer include the names of victims, including businesses, in its daily list of incidents sent to news outlets. The sheriff cited Marsy’s Law as the reason for the change. Other law enforcement agencies say they are evaluating changes to their practices or seeking guidance from the state Department of Justice. Tom Kamenick, president and founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project, a law firm focused on enforcement of the state’s open records and open meetings laws, said the issue with Marsy’s Law comes down to the interpretation of privacy.
Wisconsin State Journal

As many Michigan schools transition back to the classroom, close attention is being paid to where COVID-19 outbreaks are happening. To feed that appetite for more information, the state plans to begin giving parents and the general public information about specific schools that have had outbreaks in a weekly report that begins on Monday, Sept. 14. The increased transparency is an upgrade to the state’s recent approach of releasing more general information about outbreaks - which it defines as an instance in which two or more cases are linked by a place and time - broken down by eight different regions. Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the increased reporting transparency came out of recognition of the public’s interest in where outbreaks have happened, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed the desire to provide “real time” reporting for parents and community members to see what’s happening locally. By the time some outbreaks are reported to the state, however, they might be more than a week old.