Transparency News, 9/22/21


September 22, 2021
There was no newsletter yesterday, Sept. 21.

state & local news stories

A Suffolk Circuit Court judge has ruled that the Suffolk School Board, chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck and Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying Dr. Deborah Wahlstrom access to an open meeting. Judge Matthew A. Glassman ruled that the School Board violated the open meeting requirements as set forth under FOIA when Wahlstrom was not allowed to view the board’s July 22 retreat from inside the meeting room at the College and Career Academy at Pruden, where it was held. Glassman, however, ruled that neither Brooks-Buck nor Gordon should be held liable, as he said it was not a “willful and knowing” violation. He ruled that the board must, in the future, design retreats to allow for public access in the meeting room itself. A future hearing date is to be set for the possible award of attorney fees. The judge said livestreaming the meeting was suitable for an overflow crowd, but not for primary access.
Suffolk News-Herald

Three weeks after the firing of Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney, community members and elected officials still have questions about why a chief with no public record of wrongdoing was let go. During Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Chip Boyles answered some questions Mayor Nikuyah Walker posed during the Sept. 7 meeting, but he declined to answer some, citing personnel confidentiality. Walker asked Boyles to clarify what he determines are private personnel matters. Councilor Lloyd Snook cited the need for time to consult with Robertson about what personnel details can be discussed publicly. Walker said she didn’t understand the concern because “It’s not that we can’t [discuss it] because I think the city attorney has said we are permitted to.There are pieces of it that I think are more complex than just us talking about the one decision,” Snook said.
The Daily Progress

Police were summoned to a Clarke County School Board meeting Monday night after a woman protesting the mask mandate refused to put on a face covering. The unidentified woman wasn’t arrested, and she left on her own initiative after talking with a police officer, according to Berryville Police Chief Neal White. It was the first time that such a protest occurred within the board’s meeting room at the schools’ administrative building on West Main Street. In a Tuesday morning email, White told The Winchester Star that police didn’t prepare an incident report because no charges were lodged against the woman.
The Winchester Star

While citizens questioned the legality of a move last week by two Pound Town Council members to install a new member, the town’s interim police chief shut down a move by one of them to get a wildcat released from the town’s evidence locker. James Pelfrey, a former town council member reappointed by members Glenn Cantrell and Danny Stanley Sept. 14, participated in council votes as two county deputies and a Virginia state trooper stayed in the hallway outside council chambers on Tuesday. According to a copy of the Sept. 14 minutes in the council meeting packet, Cantrell cited a Kingsport Times News reporter as telling him at a Sept. 7 emergency meeting that two members constituted a quorum since only three members are seated on the five-member council. Cantrell and Stanley remained silent when asked before Tuesday’s meeting about their interpretation of a quorum for doing council business. Cauthorne on Monday said he understood that Town Attorney Cameron Bell had issued an opinion on the quorum requirement to do business at a meeting. Cantrell on Tuesday did not respond when asked about a legal opinion. Town Freedom of Information Act officer Kimberly Justice on Tuesday said she would provide the opinion within the five-business-day deadline under state FOIA law.
Times News
stories from around the country
Florida Republicans this spring insisted a contentious new election law curtailing access to ballot boxes was needed to prevent electoral fraud. It was not, they said, an attempt to gain a partisan advantage. But a raft of internal emails and text messages obtained by POLITICO show the law was drafted with the help of the Republican Party of Florida’s top lawyer — and that a crackdown on mail-in ballot requests was seen as a way for the GOP to erase the edge that Democrats had in mail-in voting during the 2020 election. The emails and text messages obtained by POLITICO were handed over as part of an ongoing lawsuit by several groups — including the League of Women Voters of Florida — challenging the newly-enacted law that put in new restrictions on the collection of mail-in ballots and the use of drop boxes.  The groups challenging the law asked for the records to be turned over as part of their preparation for trial. POLITICO asked for copies of all records turned over by the House, Senate and governor’s office. These records included legislative drafts that are usually shielded from disclosure.