Transparency News 9/17/19



September 17, 2019


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state & local news stories


The Office of the State Inspector General is failing to fulfill its role as a state investigative agency and has inappropriately dismissed allegations sent to a state whistleblower hotline without gathering more information, according to a report from the General Assembly's research arm. Separately, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that a citizen board that oversees jail death investigations is doing a good job, but should provide more information publicly and needs more staff.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


stories of national interest

New York City’s official tally of NYPD lawsuit settlements is woefully incomplete — and fails to account for $22 million in deals struck during the first three months of this year alone, The Post has learned. From January through March, 286 suits filed against the NYPD over alleged police misconduct were settled for a combined $16 million in taxpayer money, according to data on the city Law Department’s website.  But thanks to a legal loophole, another 432 cases that were resolved in the same period aren’t included in the Law Department’s database, according to information obtained from the city Comptroller’s Office through the Freedom of Information Law. Those settlements, which are the most recent available, exceed the amount that the Law Department said was paid out by nearly 40% — and pushed the actual total to $38 million. Under a 2017 law signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Law Department is required to post “information regarding civil actions filed in state or federal court against the police department or individual police officers” twice a year. But the Law Department’s latest data don’t include 426 cases that were paid out by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office for a combined $16.9 million — because those cases were settled after complainants alerted the city of their intention to sue via a “notice of claim” but before a formal suit was filed.
New York Post

Top staffers for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown privately worked against a pro-transparency bill that ultimately failed in June, according to records released by Oregon’s public records advocate in the wake of her resignation Monday. Brown has pledged to increase transparency under her watch since she was sworn in as governor in 2015. Yet memos and emails show staffers and lobbyists working on her behalf opposed a proposal to make state agencies track and disclose information about records requests they receive from the public. The documents say Brown’s staffers told public records advocate Ginger McCall at least twice that her work to support the bill contradicted the governor’s interests and was a bad idea.
The Oregonian




editorials & columns


In honor of Constitution Day, we present the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and its first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights:
The Daily Progress

Forging the new Constitution was an arduous task, one conducted in relative secrecy and completed only with several critical compromises to win support from delegated representing states with large and small populations. But ultimately those attending the Constitutional Convention emerged with a document, signed on this day in 1787 by those delegates, that remains the governing charter for this nation. Readers already well versed in these details should pat themselves on the back, because it turns out they are a minority of Americans, according to polling by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The Princeton, N.J., based organization, which helps cultivate leaders in higher education, government and other fields, released figures in February reflecting a woeful national ignorance about the U.S. Constitution and the nation’s origins.
The Virginian-Pilot

American history is a story about warring factions as much as it is about national unity. But even after the most corrosive factionalism between free and slave states, which erupted into a bloody and fratricidal Civil War, the Constitution was still there to provide the framework for the 13th and 14th Amendments ending slavery and enshrining due process and equal protection under the law. “The constitutional project can be understood as a way to save representative government from its own democratic excesses,” wrote Jay Cost, author of “The Inconveniences of Democracy: The Constitution and the Problem of Majority Factionalism,” which pointed out that constitutional mechanisms represent an uneasy compromise between majority rule and individual rights that is always in tension. But “the U.S. Constitution is the longest-running, written instrument of government in the world today, and undoubtedly, the United States would not be as prosperous and powerful a nation without it,” Cost added.
Free Lance-Star