Transparency News 9/23/19



September 23, 2019


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state & local news stories


Residents at Thursday’s Appalachia Town Council meeting were divided over a petition drive demanding the resignations or removal of the mayor, town manager and town attorney. Members of the recently formed Appalachia Citizens Advocates presented Mayor Teddie Collins, Town Manager Fred Luntsford Jr. and Town Attorney Mike Abbott with copies of the petitions. The petitions allege violations of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act during the council’s July meeting and closed session. Besides a common complaint of “illegally discussing information not protected under the Virginia law during town council meeting and not disclosing to the citizens the topic of the closed session,” the petitions accused all three officials of lying under oath about information discussed in closed session, unprofessional behavior and ineffectiveness in their positions.
Times News

Body-worn camera footage from the two Henrico County police officers who entered a woman’s home in Short Pump during a welfare check Tuesday morning shows the woman — who emerged from a bathroom charging the officers with an ax — was shot by both of them, a detail that was not released in the police chief’s initial account of the incident. Henrico police allowed reporters to view the video taken on both officers’ bodycams but prohibited reporters from taking photos or videos of the footage and have not released it publicly. Cardounel said the immediate family — Plack’s two adult children and ex-husband — have been offered a chance to view the videos, but they hadn’t seen it as of Friday evening.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


stories of national interest

The former administrator for Iowa’s third-largest city is suing the area’s biggest newspaper, claiming that its coverage was unfair and cost him his job, in a case that has alarmed advocates for press freedom. Former Davenport city administrator Craig Malin’s lawsuit against the Quad-City Times is set to go to trial on Monday. He argues that the paper published false news and opinion pieces about his official actions, which forced him out after 14 years with the city. The trial will not be a traditional libel case because a judge has ruled that Malin, as a public official, did not meet the high bar for proving the newspaper had defamed him. Instead, the case will be about whether the paper improperly interfered with Malin’s employment contract, a claim that has a different standard of proof and is usually used in business disputes. The newspaper’s reporting on Davenport’s handling of financial negotiations in 2015 for a new casino prompted the mayor to call for the termination of Malin, who left days later after negotiating a severance agreement. The newspaper has defended its coverage as accurate watchdog journalism and opinion protected by the First Amendment.




editorials & columns


You would think that Virginia, the home of George Washington who is held up as the paragon of the ethical statesman, would rank as one of the most ethical, the most transparent, the most open states in the country. You would be wrong. It’s not like Virginians haven’t been warned that the state’s ethics enforcement structure simply isn’t up to snuff. Even in late 2012 as what would come to be known as Giftgate began emerging in the news media, few elected leaders saw any problem that required their attention. So when details of the scandal swirling around then-Gov. Bob McDonnell emerged in early 2013, you would have thought it would have been a wake-up call. It wasn’t. Today, in 2019, six years after the McDonnells’ conviction in federal court, the ethics landscape in the Old Dominion is slowly sliding back to what passes for normal. Trips for legislators paid for by lobbyists and business interests. Gifts and donations on the rise, as memories of Giftgate recede. But just you wait … we’ll fix it. After the next ethics scandal explodes in Richmond. And believe us, there will be another one. It’s just a matter of time.
The News & Advance