Transparency News 9/19/13


Thursday, September 19, 2013

State and Local Stories


Facebook "Like" is the equivalent of free speech protected by the First Amendment, a federal court of appeals ruled Wednesday. The likable ruling was included in a decision published by the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Bland v. Roberts. In the case, which is still ongoing, Bobby Bland and five of his co-workers in the Sheriff's Department in Hampton, Va., are suing their former employer, Sheriff B.J. Roberts, for wrongful termination. Part of the suit hinged around the question of whether liking a campaign's Facebook Page is protected speech. One of the plaintiffs, Daniel Carter, said that he was fired for liking the Page of a candidate running against Roberts in the 2009 election.
Link to the full text of the opinion

Today, for the first time at the local level, the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County will be sponsoring an event for the public on open government and the Freedom of Information Act. It is a topic that affects all citizens, but by being more informed, community members can make an even bigger difference in local government. Carol Lindstrom, co-chair of the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County open government study, proposed this topic to the league after a trip to a legislative session in Richmond, Va. when she saw a vast number of bills affecting FOIA.
Collegiate Times

Todd Schneider, former chef at the Executive Mansion, pleaded no contest Wednesday to two misdemeanor counts of embezzlement and received a one-year suspended sentence, averting an October trial three weeks before the election for governor. Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret P. Spencer accepted the plea agreement that also called for Schneider to pay $2,300 in restitution to the state. The resolution spares Gov. Bob McDonnell a potentially embarrassing public airing of his and his family’s use of mansion resources and relationship with gift-giving Star Scientific donor Jonnie Williams Sr. McDonnell still faces federal and state probes into the gifts he received from Williams.

Hopewell’s city manager resigned in the middle of a City Council meeting Tuesday night, officials said. Edwin Daley resigned during a closed-session personnel discussion, Mayor Michael C. Bujakowski said. “He’s the kind of guy that when he’s ready to move on, he moves on,” Bujakowski said. After Daley offered his resignation, council left closed session to officially accept his resignation, Bujakowski said. Daley and city officials signed an agreement, Bujakowski said, but the city declined to release the document, citing an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for personnel records. Themayor declined to say exactly why Daley resigned, but said that people shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

Should Medicaid be expanded in Virginia? That’s been a question for a legislative committee since June. Now, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission is inviting public comment on the question, which could be decided by the end of the year. More than 300 people have so far submitted their written opinions to the commission’s website. The panel has also scheduled a public hearing for 1 p.m. Oct. 15 in the General Assembly building in Richmond.
Roanoke Times

More than three months after he quit the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Christopher J. Dumler will be reimbursed $9,345 in legal fees from the county he once served. Albemarle Circuit Judge Cheryl V. Higgins said the county must pay Dumler’s attorney’s fees stemming from a court battle over a citizen petition to remove him.
Daily Progress

National Stories

Former security contractor Edward Snowden was able to obtain secret documents revealing a massive U.S. spying effort from the National Security Agency's internal website, U.S. officials said according to a report on Wednesday. The classified documents leaked by Snowden were posted internally, and Snowden's job allowed him to single-handedly make digital copies without his supervisors' knowledge, government officials told National Public Radio. They did not tell NPR how Snowden took copied files out of the office, citing an ongoing investigation.

A Jefferson County, Ala., Commissioner walked out in protest of a closed door meeting with lawyers today after saying a key department head was not included, according to several participants. Commissioner Sandra Little Brown left an executive session with county attorneys and other officials who were meeting to discuss the county's ongoing federal consent decree over hiring practices.


Virginia Gazette: If not for the diligence of a government watchdog, the citizens of York County would have no idea that its elected leadership has quietly scheduled private meetings with the latest owner of the Yorktown refinery. Representatives of Plains All American Pipeline, which last year said it would disassemble the refinery and sell the equipment, apparently has some news to share. Just not with the public. According to county memos obtained by York resident Robert Holloway through the Freedom of Information Act, Plains wants to brief the supervisors "on the improvements and plans for its facility here in Yorktown." Only those representatives want to meet with the supervisors individually or in groups of two.

Vivian Paige, Virginian-Pilot: Political junkies, including me, are quick to log on to the websites of the State Board of Elections ( and the Virginia Public Access Project ( as soon as the filing deadline has passed. VPAP calls these filing days "Transparency Day," with good reason. The ability to review the financial reports gives us more than just the horserace numbers of who raised how much. From the data, we can see who the donors are, how many of them there are, and how much the candidates are spending on what items. Combined with other, nonfinancial information, we get a better sense of the competitiveness of the contests. The availability of the financial data is, as I've written before, predicated upon the candidates filing their reports electronically, using the free software provided by the SBE. But such filing is not mandatory.