Transparency News, 9/20/21



September 20, 2021
There was no issue of the newsletter Friday, Sept. 17.



state & local news stories
Fairfax County released its third annual report of FOIA statistics. In addition to being chock full of interesting tad-bits (how many requests filed, what percentage asked for records from certain county offices, highest fee charged), it's a great snapshot of FOIA's  reach and value to the community and beyond.
Fairfax County

Most of the community members in attendance at Monday’s Floyd County Public School Board meeting stormed out in protest and solidarity after one woman refused to wear a face mask and was asked to leave. The Sept. 13 meeting was the first since the recent surge in COVID-19 cases began and full in-person instruction resumed in Floyd County schools. It was also the first in recent months where face masks were required with no exceptions, and Floyd County Sheriff’s Deputies were asked to enforce that rule. A tense meeting from the moment it was called to order, largely because of the required masks, community members were outraged when the Board entered a closed session immediately after Chairman James Ingram called the meeting to order. The restless crowd used the time to discuss why they were there and what kind of leadership they expect from the local school district.
Floyd Press

Salem citizens can now address their city council more frequently, after policies were changed during a recent meeting. A state law in 2020 required all elected bodies across Virginia to allot time for public hearings during regular meetings, and the city instituted a suitable comment policy by June of that year. Changes approved by city council on Monday will allow citizens more opportunity to comment during either of Salem’s twice-monthly meetings, rather than as before, when people were only allowed to speak during the first meeting of the month.
The Roanoke Times

The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors had to cancel Tuesday’s scheduled meeting because it lacked a quorum, but it wasn’t clear what caused the cancellation. Aside from noting that the seven-member board wouldn’t have the required four members to hold the meeting, no reason was given when the county announced the cancellation on Monday. At least part of the reason for the cancellation was that two board members had contracted COVID-19 and one was quarantined because of close contact to someone with the virus. The county declined to comment on the situation Friday.
The Free Lance-Star

The Portsmouth City Council is asking state lawmakers to approve new criteria for recalling an elected city official. The city’s charter doesn’t require anyone who wants to recall a council member or Constitutional officer to give a reason — they just need a petition with signatures greater than or equal to 30% of the voters in the most recent gubernatorial election. Any changes to the city charter require approval from the General Assembly.
The Virginian-Pilot
stories from around the country
The June 9 Freedom of Information Act request filed by Coin World seeking disclosure by the U.S. Mint of the identities of the 18 dealers that comprise the controversial Authorized Bulk Purchase Program allowing the preferential purchase of select numismatic products before public release has been denied by the bureau.  Coin World filed an appeal Sept. 14. The citation for the Mint’s Sept. 13 denial of the FOIA request is Exemption 4 of FOIA regulations as it pertains to Title 5 of the United States Code, 552 (b)(4) protecting “trade secrets and commercial and financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.” Only one of the 18 ABPP dealers — the Paradise Mint Inc. in East Ellijay, Georgia — granted the Mint authorization to identify its participation, information that was released to Coin World with the denial of the release of the names of the other 17 participating dealers. Coin World has been able to identify several additional ABPP participants, but unable to get the Mint to officially confirm.
Coin World

What do a $600 septic tank pumping bill, payments to sports officials, more than $300,000 in school bus contractor costs, and a $37,000-plus payment to a student’s special needs trust fund have in common? All are among more than $520,000 paid by Sullivan County (Tennessee) Schools mostly to private vendors and contractors who received federal tax form 1099 in 2020. The Times News obtained the list of payments through a public records request for IRS Form 1099. Social Security numbers, along with other personal information that by law remains private, cannot be legally released.
Times News