Transparency News, 9/2/20

 September 2, 2020

There was no issue of VCOG's Access News yesterday, Sept. 1.
state & local news stories
VCOG's Virtual Conference
SEPT. 10

details & registration

The House and Senate convene again today. Click the links from this schedule of meetings to get to the feed you want.

In the meantime, this bill was dropped Monday. HB 5145 (Fariss)would establish a joint committee of House and Senate members to determine rules of conduct for the 2021 session by electronic means.

Several people came to Tuesday’s Town Council meeting to express concerns over the Broadway Police Department’s handling of known militia groups that attended a Black Lives Matter protest in July. As stated in a press release from the Black Lives Matter Broadway group, Rockingham County resident Grace Wilson submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Broadway Police Department for all documents that mentioned the protests. The press release states that the documents indicated local police departments coordinated with self-styled militias prior to protests in Broadway and Elkton earlier this year. In emails to former Broadway Police Chief Randy Collins, Brian Robbins, with Rockingham County Militia, notified Collins of the militia’s intent to attend the protest and said members would be on “standby at a nearby location to act if needed.” The FOIA request, which has since been posted online, did not show correspondence from Collins to Robbins or other militia members.
Daily News Record
stories of national interest
 "Our hope with the article was to give a little bit more depth to the story to maybe trigger a memory."
A lawsuit filed by a Greenville County (South Carolina) woman requesting more accommodations for public participation in county council meetings suffered a setback Monday. Greenville Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller decided to deny a motion for injunctive relief in a lawsuit brought by Faith Adedokun, a young professional living in Greenville County.  The lawsuit sought an order from a judge directing Greenville County Council to establish a remote location for people to watch virtual meetings, provide an opportunity for public comment on non-agenda issues, archive and publish recorded meetings and to not hide video of members of the public as they address council. 
Greenville News

Jodi Kelly flipped open her old family photo album to look at pictures of her mother, LaDonna Cooper. Kelly pointed out a picture of her and Cooper celebrating Kelly's seventh birthday. It was the last birthday she got to share with her mother. Investigators found Cooper's body near Crab Orchard Lake on March 6, 1987, two days after going missing. Police ruled her death as a homicide but the case remains unsolved 33 years later. The Southern Illinoisan is suing four agencies, for violating Illinois' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The newspaper sought further information about Cooper's case to write an article, with Kelly's blessing. "Our hope with the article was to give a little bit more depth to the story to maybe trigger a memory," Kelly said. "The same story that's always been told hasn't triggered anything with anybody." The suit names the city of Marion, Illinois State Police (ISP), the Williamson County Sheriffs Office and the Williamson County Coroner's office. The newspaper claims the agencies violated FOIA by failing to provide requested public documents and responses in a timely manner.


editorials & columns
"Government buildings are usually downtown, so meetings attract homeless people who have mental issues and can be disruptive."
The question, as has been asked in many contexts through 2020, is why can't this COVID-19-era innovation become permanent? Rather than return to the hassle of holding most public meetings in person, why not continue to make them remote? [One] advantage seems less obvious, but is important: It would go a long way toward preventing public meetings from devolving into emotional trainwrecks. I've traveled the country and attended many local-government meetings, so I can attest that while most of them remain calm and public officials generally act professionally, that can't always be said of the audience. Government buildings are usually downtown, so meetings attract homeless people who have mental issues and can be disruptive. The larger disruption, though, typically comes from otherwise-buttoned-up residents who get inflamed over certain issues. They'll march to the chamber, metaphorical pitchforks in hand, ready to make the most of their allotted speaking time. The main counter-argument is that, for all the people online-only meetings would bring into the process, it would exclude those without Internet access. And in-person meetings give citizens the opportunity to directly address officials who are making decisions that affect their lives. A happy medium would be to hold meetings that are in-person but offer the option to attend and comment virtually. 
Scott Beyer, Governing